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October 25, 2018

Commercial Restroom Reflections: A Focus on Faucets with Andrew Warnes

Andrew Warnes knows water. He joined Sloan as its Product Line Manager for Faucets in 2015 after dedicating much of his career to the removal of bacteria and virus from liquids with artificial membrane substrates.

Working for organizations such as General Electric and the Water Quality Association, Warnes has lent his expertise to support the World Health Organization and was a negotiator of water product standards between the United States and European Union.

How have you seen faucets – and sensor faucets in particular – evolve over recent years?

If I reach back into time, the automatic sensor faucets were first created to address the “yuck factor” where no one wanted to touch commercial restroom fixtures. Yet, a number of other benefits were also realized. If people aren't touching faucets, they don’t have to be cleaned or disinfected or replaced as often. I think automatic sensor faucets deliver operationally for that reason, but aesthetically, there are a lot of very interesting designs where automatic sensor faucets help to distinguish a facility.

If you’re specifying products for a Fortune 500 headquarters with an executive suite frequented by distinguished and well-traveled users, there is a certain level of professionalism that the facility has to convey to its visitors. The restroom – and faucet in particular – is a big part of this. In fact, there are people who say that the faucet is the jewelry of the restroom. It can express position, individuality and creativity. Alternatively, it can express dysfunction, disorganization and an uncaring mentality towards visitors and workers alike.

How important is it in today’s landscape to manufacture faucets that are not only low-flow, but also hygienically friendly?

I think it's absolutely necessary to pair low-flow faucets with touch free-technology, but that's not because of touch-free technology itself. It's because low-flow technology is becoming a desirable attribute throughout the entire plumbing industry. Thus, it's a matter of being on par or leading the plumbing industry with efficiency where faucets can actually lead efficiency requirements with automatic products in ways that manual fixtures are unable to. The entire industry is heading in that direction and that has both benefits and potential pitfalls.

Is it important to strike a balance between low-flow fixtures and operability?

Low-flow faucets have been at the forefront of certification of sustainability, but at the same time they’ve also uncovered a number of other issues. Some of the problems popping up now include the carrying capacity of drain lines and a lack of water necessary to clear p-traps.

Other problems include the possibility of soap residue and buildup due to lower flows or because of unsatisfactory hand washing experiences on the part of end users. There's a balance, and the pendulum swings one way or the other, but I think we're getting closer to being able to meet that balance as an industry.

How is technology playing an increased role in commercial faucets?

I think that technology – and smartphone technology in particular – is giving facility owners and managers true data upon which to base their decisions, instead of just an estimation. There’s always been a desire to have more data to make more informed decisions, but a lot of people weren't familiar with how smarter water management could be achieved. Technology also has a huge impact upon installation and service times and can reduce both considerably.

Where do you envision commercial faucets heading in the next 5-10 years?

When I first joined Sloan four years ago, the specification rate for automatic sensor faucets in commercial applications was somewhere around 28 percent. Now, it's closer to 60 percent, and I think that number will continue to increase as more benefits become apparent and touch-free sensor technology becomes what distinguishes a first-class facility from a second-class facility.

We are starting to gather information about how people are using products more comprehensively than ever before. Ultimately, the data we’re gathering with the new Sloan Optima® faucets and other Sloan products might impact updates of the Hunter Curve. That’s exciting to me.

This is the first in a series of Q&A segments with Sloan product line managers for their take on where the commercial restroom has been, what it’s evolved to now and where it’s going.

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