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Public restrooms continue to be the culprit of consumer angst, from wet seats and stall floors to germy door handles and a lack of soap. Facility managers have faced the age-old challenge of providing sanitary, hygiene-friendly washrooms for their patrons.
Complaints have mounted. A recent survey by The Trending Machine found that three out of four adults had at least one complaint about public restrooms. More than one-third cited a lack of proper supplies, including paper hand towels, and 43% of respondents were concerned about germy fixtures.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) cites public health among the most important design criteria for public restrooms. The challenge for building a more desirable public restroom has led electric hand dryer manufacturers to improve on technologies and efficiency, creating faster, more hygiene-friendly products that are replacing the traditional paper hand towels. In the past five years, manufacturers have come up with innovations including touch-free faucets and high-efficiency electric hand dryers using sensors to turn on and off, drying hands in 10 seconds or less.
“Designers and facility managers are placing a higher priority on creating hygiene-friendly public spaces, and this includes restrooms,” says Mike Conlan, founder and CEO of www.handdryersupply.com. “Water and used paper hand towels can be a breeding ground for germs in restrooms. These days, an increasing number of electric hand dryer brands are being designed with bacteria-preventing technologies, meeting LEED and other green building certifications, and could cut costs over time.”
High-efficiency particulate absorption (HEPA) filters, commonly found today in most hand dryer brands, trap mold and germs inside the dryer, reducing 99.9% of bacteria from the air. These benefits, along with cost savings, are leading business owners and facility managers to replace their paper towel dispensers with high-efficiency electric dryers.
A medium-sized business sees around 150 to 200 restroom uses per day. A 12-pack case of 250 towels costs on average about $30, so a restroom that gets a medium amount of usage can expect to use at least one package of paper towels daily, for a total cost of about $75 per month. People typically use at least two towels to dry their hands, and often there is additional waste from extra unused towels pulled out and left on the floor or counter. Towels must also be bagged and removed from the restroom on a regular basis, so the extra cost of trash bags and maintenance are cost factors.
High-efficiency hand dryers have a higher initial cost – on average, they cost $500 – but their operating cost is about a tenth that of standard hand dryers. A typical electric hand dryer uses about 0.03 kilowatt-hour (kwh) of electricity per use. At an average U.S. cost of $0.0995 per kwh, the cost for using an electric dryer averages out to about $14.58 per month, a savings of more than $60 per month over using paper towels.
Electric hand dryers also are being designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and GreenSpec standards, a database of more than 2,000 green products used by architects, construction personnel and other building professionals.
A study by The Climate Conservancy demonstrates hand dryers’ minimal environmental impact by comparing carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), a measure used to compare various emissions from greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential. The study revealed that a conventional hand dryer in a restroom emits between 9 and 40 grams of CO2e in 30 seconds or less, depending on the type of dryer, while every time a person uses two paper towels they are responsible for approximately 56 grams of CO2e emissions.
Advancements in technologies give architects, general contractors and facility management executives the opportunity to transition their facilities’ restrooms to more energy-efficient and hygiene-friendly environments. And finally, nothing to complain about.
Windy Campbell is founder of Campbell Communications, an independent public relations practice serving a variety of B2B companies, including www.HandDryerSupply.com.
The FIFA World Cup is one of the largest sporting events on the planet – a symbol of global passion and national spirit. It also has a massive carbon footprint, thanks to human migration to and within the host cities as well as the consumption of arenas themselves. These structures accommodate tens of thousands of fans at a time and literally light up the night.
Stadium venues and their energy excesses are a part of sports culture, but they can have significant environmental impacts on surrounding communities and landscapes. At capacity, a sports facility becomes home to the population of a small city, with upwards of 70,000 fans at a typical NFL game. That density creates environmental problems related to water and power consumption, resource conservation, and greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, most of these venues were constructed long before the topics of climate change or LEED were part of our lexicon.
However, sports organizations and facilities operators are beginning to acknowledge the need for environmental stewardship. Major League Baseball (MLB) has worked since 2008 with the Natural Resources Defense Council to launch the Team Greening Program. The initiative promotes sustainable practices managed by individual clubs and encourages every team to adopt an official environmental policy, including using renewable energy.
AT&T Park in San Francisco recently became the first MLB ballpark to receive LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Five hundred miles to the south, San Diego’s Petco Park has implemented sustainability measures that include a sophisticated recycling program for everything from plastics and aluminum to cooking oil and food waste.
In 2009, University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium received LEED Silver certification by using locally sourced steel during construction, recycling a vast majority of construction waste, designing a reflective roof to reduce the heat island effect, and building a storm water management system that captures and treats onsite runoff prior to discharge.
A decade ago, Emirates Stadium in London implemented a passive and mixed-mode ventilation system, skylights and glass paneling, and photovoltaic solar power panels. These improvements have reduced the venue’s overall energy consumption. The stadium’s voltage optimization equipment alone has reduced the power consumption by approximately 20%.
As for the upcoming 2014 World Cup in Brazil, FIFA has budgeted $20 million dollars for sustainability measures alone, including building waste management, reducing and offsetting carbon emissions, and sourcing renewable energy. FIFA plans to make the 2014 World Cup the first with a comprehensive sustainability strategy.
Just as expanded capacity and once cutting-edge features such as artificial turf and retractable roofs once came to define progress in the world of sports facilities, perhaps tomorrow’s venues will compete amongst themselves on sustainability and environmental efficiency.
Collin Ramsey is an environmental analyst at FirstCarbon Solutions. Image credit: Filipe Matos Frazao / Shutterstock.com
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