The girth of the American population is increasing at an alarming rate - a trend that has the medical community deeply concerned. Previously considered an issue related to self control and willpower, obesity is now considered a chronic medical condition caused by a mix of genetic, cultural, behavioral, and environmental factors, according to the American Society of Bariatric Physicians (ASBP).
This trend is raising concern among facilities managers, particularly when it comes to engineering public access bathrooms. The area of primary concern in general facilities is appropriately focused on wall-mounted toilets, while hospitals face more challenges.
First, a little toilet 101: Almost all toilets are made of vitreous china, an extremely strong material, especially when downward or compression forces are applied. Therefore, fixtures that are mounted onto the floor, as long as they are not cracked or damaged, do not present a significant risk. In fact, a floor-mounted toilet can easily withstand a 1,000-pound static load without failure.
Wall-mounted plumbing fixtures are most often specified in commercial bathrooms, however, since they allow for more thorough and efficient cleaning. These fixtures are very strong, and the industry standard (ASME A112.19.2) requires that all wall-mounted toilets pass a 500-pound static load test. When weight is applied onto a wall-mounted fixture, however, a sheering force is transmitted to the interface of the fixture and the fixture carrier. When too much weight is applied, especially quickly, the risk of failure to the vitreous china is much higher than when using a floor-mounted model.
Plumbing-fixture manufacturers are responding to this issue with new, more robust designs. Toilet carrier manufacturers are also designing stronger carrier systems. It is recommended that both stronger carriers and improved toilet designs be used in concert for the highest level of protection.
The following guidelines are recommended to minimize the potential for toilet breakage ...
For new facilities: Specify floor-mounted fixtures and floor outlet toilets (if the building construction will allow). Even with the stronger wall-mounted carriers and fixtures, nothing is as strong as a floor-mounted model.
If wall outlet plumbing is required, consider floor-mounted wall outlet models. These fixtures mount on the floor and connect to the plumbing system through the wall like a wall-mounted fixture, but do not require a carrier.
For all facilities: Ensure that all toilets are installed by qualified plumbers. Occasionally inspect toilets for cracks or other signs of damage (replace if evident).
Check to make sure the nuts on the carrier studs show no signs of damage and are not loose. If they are loose, do not attempt to tighten, as this must be done to manufacturer specifications. Call a licensed plumber to inspect the installation.
Pete DeMarco is director of compliance engineering at Piscataway, NJ-based American Standard Bath & Kitchen (www.americanstandard-us.com).