Home building and private residential construction spending in 2007 has been called “a disaster.” However, the nonresidential segment continues to boom. Year-to-date growth can be seen in lodging and hospitality (60 percent), offices (26 percent), hospitals (22 percent), and shopping centers/malls (20 percent).
Chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America Ken Simonson “expects private nonresidential construction to keep up the pace for the second half of 2007 and probably right through 2008 as well.”
What this means is a rise in commercial restroom and bath installations.
In this article, we’ll take a look at a few new commercial fixtures that provide the performance needed for the high-impact environment in public spaces, and also the fashion end-users crave.
Sit-Down Service“The hospitality market is playing catch-up,” says Gray Uhl, director of design for American Standard. With both business and personal travel up, lodgings - and especially destination hotels - are a prime market for upgrading commercial fixtures.
In his meetings with hospitality builders and developers, Uhl says they’re all concerned with one thing with respect to restrooms: distinguishing themselves from their competition.
“They ask, ‘How can we give guests style and treatment that is different from all the others? Something they can’t find anywhere else?’” Uhl says. “Also, hospitality is very much concerned with trying to create something you can’t get at home.”
Destination hotels market themselves in this way, by offering the unusual - the not-so-every-day. This not only includes guestroom baths, but also the public and common areas - ballroom, lobby and restaurant accommodations.
To meet style and performance needs, Uhl points to American Standard’s Champion IV toilet, which designers and architects spec because it features great looking design for lighter-grade commercial settings (i.e., restaurants and guestroom baths), yet the tank-type Champion IV is the company’s highest performing toilet with the largest trapway.
It is offered in various designer models - such as the Oakmont, Townsend and Doral, which have a traditional look - and five colors. Its multiple lever options are a minor detail, but it allows designers to coordinate with the rest of the restroom’s fixtures and finishes.
Public AwarenessAs for public washrooms, a recent survey from Cintas found that “more than 75 percent of consumers would not return to a restaurant if the restrooms were not well-kept.” Besides the obvious cleanliness factor, “well-kept” nowadays could include several aspects when trying to please end-users - from performance to privacy to overall décor.
“The way a business or building treats its facilities is a reflection of its operating standards,” the Cintas survey concludes.
Several high-performance - yet still low-flow - options are available to commercial contractors. “In commercial plumbing, high performance is what’s important; it has to work,” emphasizes Uhl. And while aesthetics isn’t as critical for water closets behind stall doors, the new models aren’t skimping on style, either.
At this year’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas, American Standard unveiled its wall-mounted Afwall FloWise, which can bear 1,000 pounds, and its floor-mounted Madera FloWise. Both models consume nearly 20 percent less water (1.28 gpf) than the industry standard of 1.6 gpf.
The company also points to the models’ consistent performance at all water pressures for a cleaner wash and reduced splashing - a high priority for their placement in high-traffic environments.
At The LavFor faucets and lavatories, hands-free and easy-to-maintain are key. “There has been a culture change toward health and sanitation,” says Uhl. With news outlets reporting looming global pandemics, proper restroom cleanliness and hand washing go a long way to reducing the transfer of germs and infections.
Sloan Valve Co.’s new 7000 series SloanStone solid-surface lavatory systems have increased their aesthetic appeal, but they remain rugged and stand up to high-use restroom applications.
The 7000 series is offered in double- and triple-stations, installs quickly, and is serviced completely from the top. Its hardwired electronic faucet operation reduces water use since it shuts off when hands are not present, which also aids in vandal resistance.
The continuous curved basin comes in 24 solid and speckled finishes, and “eliminates the institutional look of most commercial lavatories,” the company says.
Sloan also has expanded its Guildmark Collection of sensor-operated commercial faucets and manual flushometers to include a bold palette of finishes. Choices in color include satin or polished copper, coco bronze, verdi and black, in addition to classics such as nickel and brass. Physical vapor deposition finishing is available for some models. PVD extends finish preservation for years of service.
The company’s Crown II flushometers can coordinate with other fixtures by choosing various finishes for the valve body and flushometer accent rings.
The Bottom LineAs the trend in today’s commercial settings continues to lean toward offering end-users a “bathroom experience,” watch for additional finishes and designs to crop up.
Also, fashion-forward lav styles, such as vessel sinks and washing stations, will gain in popularity. The “family restroom” - or single, lockable restrooms - is on the rise as well, fueled by consumer awareness of universal design for all types of end-users, and a cultural need for privacy.