The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rush for all types of facilities to install touch-free products in their buildings. But different uses call for different features and designs. The touch-free technology best-suited for a sports stadium might not be best for a school or commercial office building. Here we’ve asked a number of Sloan in-house experts a to comment on the specific challenges and solutions that come along with each building environment.
What considerations need to be made when specifying touch-free products that are specific to your vertical market?
Mary Phelps, Strategic Account Manager (Healthcare) – The healthcare market knows first-hand the importance of minimizing the spread of infectious diseases and is the most critical sector for touch-free products right now. Proper handwashing is front and center, and with faucets being the most contaminated touch point in a restroom, it’s key that facilities do everything possible to move away from manual faucets to reduce that risk. Also, given that many patients have physical challenges and that facilities are cognizant of these, ADA requirements are top of mind. In these instances I believe sensor faucets are really the only thing that makes sense. Faucets should be easily accessible without the need for patients to reach or create torque to activate them. If the patient has limited use of their hands, sensor faucets allow for easier access.
Morgan Butts, Senior Product Line Manager for Sinks, Faucets, Soap Dispensers, and Hand Dryers (Transportation) – In general, it’s important to think first about the type of usage—both traffic level and traffic continuity—before considering what’s most critical for your space. High traffic and vandal prone areas don’t necessarily have to sacrifice aesthetics but its important that ease of maintenance, durability, vandal resistance and reliability are considered. Sloan manufactures only commercial products designed for challenging environments. Selecting products designed for residential applications might be cheaper upfront, but ultimately very expensive if the facility has to spend on service, repairs and replacements more often down the road. Think about things like the need to service many customers over a short period of time, or a products resistance to cleaning and disinfectants.etc. Once you determine that, you also need to make sure the budget meets the needs for the products.
Faye Badger, Product Line Manager, Internet of Things (Government Buildings) – When considering touch-free products for a restroom, it’s also crucial to consider their ability to connect or communicate. Connected products allow maintenance staff to adjust settings and run diagnostics without touching the product. Additionally, the number of activations (flushes or faucet runs) can be counted, providing information on how often a restroom should be cleaned and when maintenance may be required.
What benefits do touch-free products have on your vertical market?
Kim Darke, Strategic Account Manager (Transportation) – Touch-free products create less liability in crowded public transit stations where people are constantly in and out of the restrooms. For example, Sloan’s AER-DEC® Integrated Sink System features a touch-free faucet, soap dispenser, and hand dryer all within an arm’s length. This reduces the potential for slips-and-falls that often result from water dripping on the restroom floor as users walk from the sink to the hand dryer. These touch-free products deliver not only hygienic benefits, but also cost savings, water conservation, and energy efficiency.
Gina Wilkins, Strategic Account Manager (Education) – Educational facilities—especially at the elementary levels—can sometimes be prone to young students vandalizing the restroom by intentionally leaving the water running. Touch-free products not only promote hygiene in educational facilities, but they also reduce water waste and prevent vandalism and sink flooding for faucets, along with guaranteed flushed toilets for flush valves.
Andrew Warnes, Technical Training Manager (Offices) – Just like any facility, office buildings have a need for the hygienic benefits that come along with touch-free technology, but they also have maintenance benefits. Touch-free faucets and flushometers save water and energy compared to their manual equivalents. The training section of our website has presentations dedicated to best practices when selecting touch-free products to replace manual ones. These are full of practical tips as guidelines for office buildings and many other types of facilities. Touch-free features and designed have evolved to the point where customers have a higher regard for an establishment that provides them with a touch-free experience, and they’ve come to expect it in Class A office spaces.
Mark Lawinger, Senior Product Line Manager for Flushometers and Fixtures (Healthcare) – The healthcare market is very concerned about the transmission of disease within its environment. Healthcare facilities often have a high population of immune-compromised individuals. By reducing the number of high-touch surfaces that both patients and healthcare workers are exposed to, the risk of transmitting disease is reduced substantially. This can lead to fewer healthcare-acquired infections and an overall heathier population.
What kind of feedback have you been hearing from users within your vertical market?
Kim Darke (Transportation) – We are hearing that facilities love the AER-DEC Integrated Sink System. Users want to get in and out of restrooms quickly, and the AER-DEC helps to do that by incorporating every element of the handwashing process onto the sink deck.
Morgan Butts (Hospitality) – A restroom is a representation of the entire facility. For example, restaurant guests typically can’t see into the kitchen, so they look instead to the restroom as an indicator as to how well-kept the kitchen is. Users may spend more time at that facility if the restroom is comfortable, clean, and easy to use.
Andrew Warnes (Offices) – Establishment owners are being very cautious about their post-pandemic re-openings. They are worried that the “new normal” will bring a post-isolation rush back to their facilities, and they therefore have to do everything possible to make their patrons feel safe and welcomed. A big part of that is touch-free restroom facilities.
Faye Badger (Government) – Prisons use automatic sensor products to reduce vandalism and water waste – they’ve noted a dramatic drop in water usage and lower sewer bills. On average, those that have implemented a PWT smart restroom solution see up to 35% savings.
Where do you see the future of commercial restrooms heading in your vertical market?
Kim Darke (Transportation) – Going forward, everything will be touch-free and automated, if possible. Public transit restrooms will be equipped with touch-free faucets, soap dispensers, hand dryers, and digital occupancy signs to indicate if a stall is free or taken. Hygiene is first and foremost in people’s minds, and restroom cleanliness and the overall user experience will become more and more important to users and the facility owners and managers.
Kirk Gruben: Strategic Account Manager (Entertainment/Stadiums) – Connected restrooms that are strategically laid out to accommodate the heavy flow of user traffic will be a continuing trend as we work to improve the user experience.
Morgan Butts (Hospitality) – Now more than ever, people are aware of hygiene and hand washing. As locations open up, they need to give users confidence that they can be in that space in a healthy and hygienic way. I see commercial restrooms continuing to focus on more elements being touch-free. I also see that the building owners and managers will expect to be able to see more information and interact with their products through apps or building management systems. Through this, they will be able to operate with fewer staff that need to physically go into the restroom in order to check if something requires maintenance.
Faye Badger (Government) – Smart restrooms will provide information about the use of products across a restroom group. Building managers will have access to the percentage of hand washes and toilet flushes, the optimal time to clean a restroom, and have real-time alerts about issues that could result in wasted water and a poor customer experience.
This is the 17th edition in a series of Q&A segments with Sloan subject matter experts for their take on where the commercial restroom has been, what it’s evolved to now, and where it’s headed. A previous edition on Sloan’s efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here.
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