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Between changes in patron preferences and new legislation, free feminine products are increasingly seen as a necessity.

Today, public schools in particular are using free feminine product vendors to support the health and comfort of female students while reducing absentee rates. Even some private facilities and retail establishments are using free vend products to build stronger connections with and show concern for their customer base. Manufacturers have a responsibility to fulfill these needs with product options—and Bobrick has done just that.

The prospect of offering free feminine hygiene products may strike concern for some facility owners who consider the long-term cost of consumables like tampons and sanitary pads. Thus, many facilities are considering token-vend products to provide this valuable service while also controlling the rate of consumption.

As laws and preferences prompt specifiers and facility managers to consider free sanitary napkin/tampon vendors, Bobrick has reacted to the trend with an unmatched selection of free-vend solutions, including new token-vend products to meet the needs of cost-conscious facilities.

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*Map last updated on 04/08/2019

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Equity Legislation

In an effort to improve student health, reduce absentee rates and promote focused learning, several states and municipalities have enacted legislation requiring free feminine care products in public schools.

In 2016, New York City passed a legislative package making free feminine hygiene products available in all city public schools, shelters and correctional facilities. In 2017, the Illinois State Legislature passed a law requiring bathrooms in schools with grades 6 through 12 to make tampons and sanitary napkins available at no cost.

In 2018, a new law took effect in California requiring public schools serving grades 6 through 12, where 40 percent of students fall below to poverty line, to stock at least half of their bathrooms with free feminine products—approximately 4,000 schools meet this criteria, including about 12,000 students within the Los Angeles Unified School District.

(Click to enlarge)
Infographic courtesy of the
Free the Tampons Foundation

Meanwhile, a Wisconsin legislator has reintroduced a bill that would make free tampons and sanitary napkins a requirement in restrooms in government buildings.

With other states and municipalities currently considering similar legislation and social movements, such as Free the Tampons, gaining traction, one thing’s clear—the free vend is gaining steam.

Promoting Dignity & Health

While current legislation has chiefly affected public schools and other public facilities, it’s worth noting that oftentimes, changes like these tend to eventually find their way into the state building code, which covers privately-owned commercial facilities.

Thus, architects and designers striving to achieve inclusive or universal design principles, may consider free vend solutions to not only satisfy the law but also create a more inclusive patron experience.

Any facility looking to meet the expectations of its female user base should consider how common it is for U.S. women ages 18-54 to have their period begin unexpectedly in public. The following survey results are courtesy of the Free the Tampons Foundation:

  • 86 percent of women need access to supplies while in public
  • 34 percent went home immediately to get feminine supplies.
  • 48 percent only carry feminine hygiene products when expecting or experiencing their period.

These takeaways underscore the importance of increasing public access to feminine care products—when users don’t have the supplies they need readily available, work and school attendance can suffer.

The Value of Free

Some designers and facility managers may consider potential long-term operating costs when entertaining free vend solutions. However, studies show that users take the products they need and no more. In facilities where free vend has been introduced, users consume less than two products per year, on average. As most women have a preferred brand, the free product is viewed as a “last resort” for unplanned events only.

Further, since 2017, several states have already exempted menstrual care products from sales tax, including Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. In addition, the following states are exempt from all taxes related to menstrual care products: Alaska, New Hampshire, Oregon, Delaware and Montana.

For operators, this underscores the cost-benefit of implementing free-vend—in most cases, the service benefit will far outweigh the cost of consumables. That’s why Bobrick has reacted to the free-vend trend with an unmatched selection of free- and token-vend products.


A Helping Hand for Dryer Selection:

How to Specify the Right Hand Dryer

Choosing the right hand dryer can facilitate a range of benefits for facilities. It can be the finishing touch that ties together a restroom’s high-end aesthetic, align with a facility’s goal of being ADA-complaint and help create a healthy, hygienic environment. A great hand dryer choice can also facilitate significant long-term cost savings for the owner while reducing the impact of the restroom on the environment.

Every building project—and every restroom—has unique needs. Your hand dryer specification should reflect those needs and provide added value to the owner, thereby strengthening your relationships and ensuring that the intent of your design endures.

Consider Owner, Building Type & Occupants

Each building type has unique requirements and needs that hand dryers can support. Before specifying a hand dryer, ask yourself:

  • What kind of building is it?
  • Who will be using it?
  • What kind of traffic must it serve?
  • Which benefits can best serve these goals? (i.e. noise level, hygiene or design)

Thus, building type can help you form a baseline for your hand dryer specification. Consider the following building types and their requirements before choosing a hand dryer.

Prestige Buildings

Examples: Corporate headquarters, Class-A offices, iconic civic centers, major universities, concert halls, upscale properties, corporate headquarters

Characteristics: Clean, high-end design, hygiene and cleanliness

Critical Features

  • High-end design: For prestige buildings, supporting the facility’s high-end aesthetic should be your top priority when choosing a hand dryer. Look for stainless steel finishes, clean forms, and, if budget and wall construction permits, recessed installation.
  • Hygienic operation: One common drawback of many hand dryers is their tendency to splash water onto the restroom floor, wall or even the patron. Not only are these puddles unhygienic, but also they can create serious fall hazards. Look for models with design elements that absorb or catch excess water, which also can significantly reduce janitorial workload to support economical operation.
Standard Use Buildings

Examples: Commercial office facilities, healthcare centers, hospitality projects, manufacturing plants, retail spaces

Characteristics: Moderate traffic, modest budgets, compliant objectives, pleasant environment

Critical Features

  • Low noise: Since so many standard use buildings are places of work, learning and commerce, it’s critical that the hand dryers help maintain a pleasant, low-noise environment. Many popular hand dryer brands can operate as high as 86 measured decibels (dBA); consider models that operate at 72 dBA or lower to maintain a pleasant atmosphere conducive to productivity, learning and interaction.
  • Accessibility compliance: Since so many standard use facilities—especially healthcare facilities—must serve people of very different ages and abilities, supporting accessible design objectives is critical. 2010 ADA Standards require that restroom accessories installed with leading edges between 27 inches and 80 inches above the floor must protrude no more than 4 inches maximum into a circulation path. Look for hand dryers that satisfy the 4-inch protrusion requirement.

“Nice to Have” Features

  • Contemporary design: If budget permits, find a model with an aesthetically pleasing design that harmonizes with the restroom’s aesthetic. In fact, many hand dryers with distinctive designs and stainless steel finishes are available within many standard use clients’ desired price range.
Heavy Traffic Buildings

Examples: K-12 schools, shopping malls, amusement parks, recreation facilities, transportation centers, airports, stadiums, restaurants

Characteristics: Periods of heavy traffic and usage, high facility operating costs

Critical Features:

  • Low wattage: When it comes to energy costs, years of consistent, heavy traffic can add up. Seek out a low-wattage jet dryer that can support high traffic flow without driving up the facility’s energy costs. While some leading brands operate as high as 1.7 kW, Bobrick’s InstaDry™ Surface-Mounted Hand Dryer operates as low as 0.2 kW, facilitating to up to 80 percent savings on annual operating costs. Further, low wattage dryers can also achieve an effect of “accelerating savings”—the more they’re used, the more the facility saves. Finally, many heavy traffic facilities have lofty sustainability goals, and a low wattage dryer can help support that, too.
  • Lifespan: Facility managers at high traffic facilities have enough to worry about—hand dryers breaking down on a regular basis shouldn’t be one of them. By investing in a hand dryer with a long lifespan, the replacement cycle is reduced and the facility spends less money and time replacing units.

“Nice to Have” Features

  • High-end design: If budget allows it, a hand dryer with high-end aesthetics can help heavy traffic facilities project a high-end image.

Have a project that requires a smart hand dryer specification? Find Bobrick solutions in our Complete Hand Dryer Range brochure.

Download Bobrick’s Complete Hand Dryer Range brochure to put these insights into action!
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Why Specifiers Should Care About Proprietary vs. Non-Proprietary Systems

Don’t let your design intent get scrubbed. After all, as an architect or interior designer, the primary value you bring to every project is your vision.

Whether you’re specifying a toilet partition system or a soap dispenser, the products you choose have a profound effect on the overall aesthetic and experience of the restroom for years to come.

When the product you specify causes headaches for the building owner—in the form of increased maintenance, cost-in-use and even excessive waste—you put your design intent in serious jeopardy. In many cases, a high-cost, high-labor system is specified by the architect; within a few months or less, the owner or facility manager will have already replaced the system with a more cost-effective (and often times, uglier) option.

In your upfront specification, avoid leaving the dispensing system up to the owner who may compromise your overall restroom design by affixing a plastic soap dispenser to the mirror, which can be unsightly and messy, resulting in water puddles on the counter. Further, once you leave the soap dispenser up to the owner, consider it “open season” on the rest of your design choices, from the toilet tissue dispenser to the towel dispenser.

The bottom line: As a specifier, specifying an effective soap dispensing system should be your responsibility—in fact, over the long-term, this decision can be a make-or-break moment to preserve your design intent for years to come.

Proprietary Systems are Consistently Swapped

Most modern soap dispensing systems utilize proprietary soap cartridges—that is, systems that can only function with the manufacturer’s proprietary plastic soap cartridges or bottles. These cartridges typically are affixed to the dispenser beneath the washroom counter. Maintaining this system is somewhat labor-intensive for janitorial staff, who must reach and bend under the counter to change the cartridge. Over the lifetime of the product, this kind of maintenance can add up to hundreds of dollars in wasted labor costs.

Looking to support sustainability goals? Proprietary soap cartridge systems also result in excessive waste—each cartridge or bottle must be discarded once empty and cannot be refilled.

Finally, proprietary soap systems usually come with high-priced, multi-year consumables contracts, essentially locking facility owners into multi-year purchasing agreements.

For these reasons, proprietary systems are extremely prone to being replaced with other, less aesthetic products within just a few months of being installed—they’re simply too much trouble and too expensive for the facility to deal with. And when the dispenser goes, so does the lifetime of your integrated restroom aesthetic.

Non-Proprietary Systems Deliver Design Endurance

While proprietary soap systems limit purchasing flexibility for facilities and contribute to additional labor costs and post-consumer waste, non-proprietary soap dispensing systems are low maintenance for the owner—meaning your design is much more likely to endure.

First, they allow facilities to use any soap type that is compatible with the dispenser, be it a liquid or foam variety. In fact, the use of bulk jugs of non-proprietary soap can facilitate as much as 80% cost savings on soap compared to proprietary cartridges or bottles; thus, it’s also a more sustainable option, resulting in up to a 57% reduction in post-consumer waste.

In addition, some newer non-proprietary dispensing systems feature top-fill functionality, allowing janitorial staff to refill the dispenser through a convenient spout. With non-proprietary, open systems, maintenance staff can work more efficiently and comfortably, spending considerably less time bending beneath counters.

To further improve long-term cost and labor savings for non-proprietary dispensing solutions, utilize a foam soap system (whether automatic or manual), which can facilitate as much as 15% water savings compared to liquid. This adds yet another incentive for facilities to turn away proprietary soap companies and maintain your specified product for years to come.

The economical, sustainable benefits of non-proprietary systems increase the likelihood that the owner will stick with your specification, refilling and maintaining as-needed.

The Deep Scrub

The average American worker spends 40 hours per year in their workplace’s restroom—so when you conceptualize a restroom design, it’s within everyone’s best interest that you make it last.

Don’t break your clients’ bank and compromise your design intent with a restrictive soap dispensing system. Get it right the first time and don’t let your intent get scrubbed.

Return to the Bobrick Academy soon for our upcoming blog on liquid soap vs. foam soap!

Consult with a Bobrick architectural rep to learn more about specifying a non-proprietary soap dispensing system like Bobrick’s new B-823 manual foam soap dispenser.
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Solutions for a Multigenerational Market

Recent demographic and social trends have increased demand for multigenerational design in the commercial building environment, and the restroom offers many opportunities for designers to cater to a full spectrum of generational challenges.

Rising demand for accessible design, family-friendly amenities, hygiene, and privacy all place the onus on architects and specifiers to provide solutions that better serve an increasingly diverse range of restroom patrons. Multigenerational solutions are not just good manners—they are also good business.

Note: This infographic does not constitute a comprehensive guide to ADA, ICC or ANSI compliance—for complete information, we invite you to download our The Continuing Architect course, Multigenerational Public Restroom Design and review full ADA, ICC/ANSI standards and local building codes.

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Earn an AIA/CES Learning credit with Bobrick’s course, Multigenerational Public Restroom Design.
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