According to the U.S. Department of Education, thousands of schools will need to be built over the next 10 years, and even more will need to be renovated, in order to respond to rising enrollments and to repair aging schools. The chance to “design out” inefficiencies in operation is greater in new construction, but renovating the plumbing of older schools still offers the opportunity to make facilities more efficient and accessible.
The Collaborative for High Performance Schools in California believes designing high performance schools can significantly reduce operating costs: “School districts can save 30 percent to 40 percent on annual utility costs for new schools, and 20 percent to 30 percent on renovated schools by applying high performance design and sustainability concepts.”
The movement toward green building and sustainability has found a comfortable home in the construction of educational buildings. Today, more and more school districts seek LEED certification, and look to their architects, engineers and constructors for ways to optimize the performance of the school environment.
Studies by the Green Building Council into the effect the school environment has on students have found that quiet mechanical systems utilizing fresh air, natural lighting and open floor plan design, to name a few, can create a space more receptive to the learning process.
With respect to plumbing, the accessibility to handwashing facilities helps curb the spread of disease among students. The use of technology, such as automatic fixtures and vandal-resistant features, reduces maintenance and contributes to a more pleasant washroom environment. Kiddie-sized fixtures for youngsters also help make washroom facilities an inviting space instead of an obstacle.
Here are a few new products that contribute to more child-friendly environments.
SinksThe new Scrub-a-Dubs™ lavatory sink collection from Elkay offers residences and smaller educational facilities (day care centers) a bit of whimsy through the use of shape and color.
Six designs - including tulips, butterflies and hearts - are fabricated from durable, solid-surface composite material that cleans easily and is resistant to chips, scratches and stains of everyday use. The color palette is vivid to catch the interest of its young users: red, pink, brown, blue, purple, yellow and white.
Bradley Corp.'s Terreon deep-bowl washfountain can accommodate at least three users at one time. It features a new ADA-compliant height, which makes it ideal for use in schools and other child-frequented facilities. Its solid-surface material resembles granite in finish, but resists stains, burns, chemicals and impact. Terreon units also offer automatic shutoff valves through the use of infrared controls, as well as a single-set of water supplies and waste connections.
ClosetsDuring a recent family trip to the zoo, this editor was pleased - and relieved - to find a toddler-sized water closet in one of the stalls. While universal design and the Americans with Disabilities Act gave us comfort-height toilets and larger stalls, this movement toward downsizing and inclusive features for families with small children has made trips to the washroom less of a chore.
Facilities frequented by children - such as malls, museums, amusement parks, etc. - can benefit from child-size plumbing installations. However, these “Kiddie Klosets” are required by one major code but not the other, says Julius Ballanco, P.E.
The 2003 Uniform Plumbing Code requires the smaller water closets for schools and day care centers where there are children under the age of 6. But the 2003 International Plumbing Code doesn't require them. It does allow them to be installed, though.
When they are installed, they count as part of the required number of plumbing fixtures (codes specify a minimum number of fixtures).
The reason for the disagreement between the codes? Controversy over potty training. Some parents believe the size discrepancy from their daytime facilities to their residential fixtures delays proper potty training, but it is conjecture; there is no consensus - for or against - pertaining to toilet size affecting training.
The new Pee Wee water closet by Gerber can be used in both commercial/institutional and residential applications. It fits the same rough-in - 12 inches from the wall and over a 10-inch to 14-inch floor connection - so it can easily be changed out for adult-size fixtures.
“The Pee Wee is the opposite of universal design; it is a specialized design,” says Kevin McJoynt, director of marketing for Gerber. “But it still offers the water savings, 1.6 gpf, as full-size closets.” McJoynt says smaller-sized closets have been around for a while, but their movement into residences and nontraditional commercial settings is a relatively recent trend. There is also increased awareness about designing for smaller individuals, who risk slips, falls and balance problems while using the restroom.