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January 19, 2023

Commercial Restroom Reflections: Advancements in Water Closets and Urinals

Faucets and flush valves have been in the spotlight recently for their ability to positively impact a restroom’s health and wellness. Yet, water closets and urinals also remain pivotal to a restroom’s basic function and water conservation goals.

With evolving trends and advancements, it’s important for specifiers and facility managers to stay up to date to optimize their restrooms. Mark Lawinger, Sloan Senior Product Line Manager for Flushometers and Fixtures, discusses recent trends, as well as where the industry is heading.

What have been the catalysts behind recent toilet and urinal advancements?
Sustainability and aesthetics have been the primary drivers. From a sustainability standpoint, conserving water is always a key consideration as manufacturers work to innovate products that use less water. It's one thing to have flushometers dispense less water, but to get them to pass the flush requirements and tests is vital for restroom hygiene. Sloan has continued to look at our fixtures and refine how they work alongside improving our flushometers. EPDs, HPDs, and carbon neutrality are also important factors and Sloan takes pride in its wide range of carbon neutral products as we purchase offsetting carbon credits to promote a more sustainable restroom.

From an aesthetic perspective, toilets and urinals have traditionally been relied upon to be functional, with little to no attention to how they look. Manufacturers don't like to change their form very frequently because of the manufacturing process involved. It uses very ancient technology of molding clay, glazing, firing, and more. Once you get a product designed and produced that works, you don't want to change it. Over the years, there’s been more attention paid to the aesthetic offering and we have made efforts to implement a higher element of design. Over the years we’ve enhanced our water closets and have more recently applied the same principle to urinals. That’s why Sloan’s latest offerings—like the Gravity Toilet—work to incorporate sleek design that enhances the overall restroom aesthetic.

How is Sloan’s new Gravity Toilet improving everything from restroom aesthetics to hygiene?
We’ve received great feedback after introducing the Gravity Toilet last year. We spent a lot of time working on how the bottom part of the tank works with the toilet tank and the lid, and came up with a sleek, sophisticated design. It has a gradual tapered tank, without a giant overlapping lid that one might typically see. These are harder to make but the Gravity Toilet provides a one-piece look with the benefits of a two-piece toilet for a contemporary, clean, and fresh look.

We insisted on using new Centriflo® technology for a more powerful flush. This technology provides two large horizontal channels where the water enters the bowl through approximately 30 different rim holes that are punched on the underside of the rim, areas where germs, bacteria, and mildew typically build. Centriflo helps to achieve a cleaner bowl with a strong gravity-powered flush and large glazed channels to improve water conservation. The large radius and fully glazed channels also make it easy to clean. All of these features combined result in a more hygienic bowl.

Have hydrophobic glazes like SloanTec become even more important to promote cleanliness in a post-pandemic environment?
We continue to see more interest in SloanTec year-over-year ever since we introduced it. But it really started to become popular during the pandemic when there was a heightened sense of spreading germs and bacteria. While that has seemed to subside a bit, we’re still well above where we used to be in terms of our attention to hygiene and germs. I think that is what’s driving this continued growth and expectation.

What role do WaterSense-listed products or other compliances have on customer confidence in water-efficient products?
WaterSense is the most visible and recognizable water efficiency listing out there right now and is backed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Every architect and building engineer know what Water Sense is and what it means. But the thing that might make WaterSense the most appealing is that when governments and municipalities want to encourage water savings, they can provide rebates to the building owners, contractors, etc. You can get a certain amount of money back for each WaterSense-listed product you install.

What trends are you forecasting for the year ahead?
There is a lot of speculation about a potential recession, and if that’s the case, I believe there will be a focus on value and reliability when it comes to commercial restroom specification. This would likely prompt customers to specify products and brands they know and trust. If you’re going to spend money in an economic downturn, you’re going to spend it on something that you know is going to work.

Additionally, a West Coast drought has prompted the growth of water-free commercial restroom products. We anticipate a drought may once again be in the forecast for the West Coast, and possibly even more widespread into the mountainous areas. We feel this may prompt a resurgence in water-free and low flow commercial restroom products.

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