Sustainable Commercial Restroom Design

May 23, 2019

Commercial Restroom Reflections: A Sustainability Discussion with Patrick Boyle

Patrick Boyle is no stranger to sustainability. After specializing in environmental health and safety for over 10 years prior to joining Sloan, he has spent the better part of the last decade furthering Sloan’s sustainability initiatives. Now in his fifth year as Sloan’s Director of Corporate Sustainability, he is leading the company’s push toward product transparency, carbon reduction and other environmental initiatives.

How has the focus on sustainability recently shifted in the commercial restroom?

For years, the focal point of restroom sustainability was always centered around water conservation and how we can reduce the amount of water flowing through restroom products while still maintaining a healthy environment. Flush volumes have been decreasing at a rapid pace ever since William Elvis Sloan created the Royal® Flushometer in 1906, yet we’re now getting to the point where we really can’t go much lower than we already are. We don’t want to sacrifice sanitation for water conservation.

With that in mind, the trend has now progressed to increased scrutiny on how a product is made and what it’s made from. Various transparency reports have been available for many sectors of the commercial landscape for years – from carpeting and ceiling tiles to glass and furniture – but that focus just shifted to plumbing over the past five years. I think one of the primary drivers behind that increase has been LEED version 4. That version has an entire section dedicated to the environmental and health impacts of building products specified in LEED certified buildings. The Materials and Resources (MR) section of the green building rating system focuses on minimizing the embodied energy and other impacts associated with the extraction, processing, transport, maintenance and disposal of building materials.

Why do you think the commercial restroom was late to adopt the trend in product transparency?

The commercial restroom was definitely a late adopter of commercial product transparency, but only because we weren’t allowed to offer any LEED MR credits for many years. We could offer water efficiency credits, but the customer wouldn't get any additional LEED credits for specifying a flushometer with an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). We’re now able to offer additional MR credits for our products, and Sloan is actually the only commercial manufacturer currently offering a Health Product Declaration (HPD). An HPD provides a standardized way of reporting the material contents of building products, and the health effects associated with these materials The industry is moving in the right direction where we are now looking at how are these buildings impact not only the environment, but also their occupants. This is why Sloan is offering HPDs.

How has the advent of recent technology helping to utilize data to improve sustainability?

Technologies employed in the Internet of Things (IoT) such as Sloan’s new Optima® smart faucet and its Connect® App, have become major trendsetters. We now have the ability to measure water in very specific ways while looking at exactly how much water is flowing through these products.

These types of innovations are game-changers, especially when you start looking at some of the credits that are available within LEED, and the additional points available for sub-metering various plumbing systems in the building.

The ability to measure and report water usage and check battery strength, while generating and sharing diagnostic reports with Sloan throughout different restrooms in a facility provides a huge advantage to the building owner and facilities team.

Sloan is also developing new ways to put sustainability resources right at the fingertips of anyone who visits our website. We recently launched a Sustainability Calculator that allows users to calculate water savings based on the input of a specific Sloan product. The calculator tabulates a building’s water usage utilizing Sloan products compared to the LEED baseline through gallons per flush, flushes per day and overall water use. In addition to the calculator, our new sustainability web page also includes a Green Product Finder that lists each of the certifications and credits for Sloan’s entire lineup of sustainable commercial restroom products.

Where do you see the future of restroom sustainablility heading?

The next evolution is going to be the use of non-potable water in buildings to flush toilets and urinals. Potable water has a large carbon footprint. It takes a lot of energy to extract water from its source, pump it to a treatment facility, treat it to drinking water standards and then pump it to the end user. I think the big questions is how to utilize gray water on-site in different applications where potable water is not necessary. We're starting to see some cities like San Francisco adopt an ordinance allowing buildings to use alternate water sources for non-potable applications, such as toilet flushing and irrigation.

What is Sloan’s involvement in the Green Sports Alliance?

The Green Sports Alliance is an environmentally-focused trade organization that convenes stakeholders from around the sporting world to promote healthy and sustainable communities. The alliance holds many events throughout the year, but the annual Green Sports Alliance Summit is its biggest event. Sloan will once again be attending this year at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., from June 19-20.

The summit is a great chance to talk to leaders from various professional and collegiate sports organizations about sustainability, what they’re working on and how Sloan can help them reduce both their water and environmental footprint. Sloan has a great story to tell sports venues’ around the country based on our work in the 1060 Project at Wrigley Field. Initially, Wrigley was using about 22 million gallons of water during baseball season alone. After installing Sloan’s water-saving products throughout the concourse and in the clubhouse, Wrigley Field was able to reduce its water consumption by over 60 percent, while achieving real water savings and operational savings as well.

 

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