Designing for Authentic Sustainability

When architects are tasked with envisioning a brand new, potentially LEED®-certified building, it should be designed with sustainability in mind every step of the way. Not only is it friendlier to the environment, but sustainable operation is closely linked to economical operation, providing architects with opportunities to support their clients’ long-term business goals and develop positive relationships.

A 2015 study showed a statistical link between tenant satisfaction and sustainability efforts involving cost savings from energy and other forms of conservation. In addition, a study conducted in 2017 revealed that nearly one in 10 millennials would quit their jobs if they found out their current employer was not sustainable. Working toward authentic sustainability isn’t just good for the environment—it’s good for business, too.

There is strong demand for sustainable restrooms, and to achieve authentic long-term sustainability, architects and designers must consider a variety of factors and solutions.

Soap Dispensers

Specifying the appropriate soap dispenser can greatly affect sustainability goals. Excess waste from proprietary soap cartridges limits purchase choice, and such systems can lead to difficult maintenance. Streamlined, top-fill designs that simplify maintenance and utilize jug soap also improve efficiency substantially. In addition, dispensers that utilize foaming hand soap allow for greater hand coverage, reducing product waste and achieving the ideal hand wash without excess resource consumption characteristic of liquid soap.

Paper Towel Dispensers

Paper towel dispensers are another common source of inefficiency. Many roll paper towel systems produce what is known as a “stub roll” at the end of each roll. This stub roll will comprise a portion of unused paper towels that typically gets discarded, and the accumulation of stub rolls leads to excess waste. However, some units are equipped with stub roll utilization functionality, ensuring that every roll goes its furthest, providing complete consumable usage at less replacement time.

Dispensers without portion control features are also culprits of excess paper towel usage, allowing patrons to use more towels than necessary. Specifying dispensers with adjustable pull lengths and portion control features can curb wasteful behavior.

Folded paper towel dispensers, while sometimes less sustainable, can be equipped with accessories that eliminate handful dispensing to ensure one towel dispense per use.

Hand Dryers

While hand dryers solve many sustainability challenges, other factors come into play. For example, wattage and functionality of hand dryers, and other accessories, can lead to high energy costs, reducing their impact—especially high-speed hand dryers. However, recent innovations yield wattages as low as 200 kW (0.2 watts) and longer life expectancies. It is essential to take a holistic approach to hand dryer selection. Before specifying, consider the needs of the building occupancy in concern with performance features.

Touchless Accessories

Touchless accessories have virtually become standard to sustainable restroom design, due to their hygienic function and ability to minimize water and consumable usage. However, energy requirements, such as batteries and AC power usage, should be considered during specification. It is important to note that there are two types of hands-free sensor: infrared and fiber optic. Infrared may result in wasted water and soap, while fiber optics tend to be more reliable.

Communicating the Value of Sustainability

As the key decision maker in product specification, it is standard to provide support materials such as Building Information (BIM) analyses, technical data and compliance documentation to support specification decision. This is important because individuals from stakeholders like contractors and facility managers can challenge your selections. Energy savings should be outlined and communicated right off the bat.

Architects will likely engage with a manufacturer’s representative, who can provide support in communicating the benefits of chosen products. These representatives can serve as consultative educators, providing resources to help specifiers defend their choices.

Today, innumerable building products are marketed as “sustainable.” Authentic, long-term sustainability should be considered just as important, if not more, than sustainable materials used in manufacture or any other factor address by LEED. Understanding and communicating the operating value of each product, including measurable cost and resource savings, can be the deciding factor in securing the specification. By considering strategies beyond those typically associated with green building, architects can achieve their design vision and make it last.

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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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