Steps for Washroom and Locker Room Sustainability

An increasing number of administrators are requiring sustainable design for their campus projects. While washrooms and locker rooms are not usually the focal point of any project, they are a great place to adhere to sustainable design practices.

The Framework

David Rose, AIA, business leader in SSOE Architects & Engineers, Inc., Troy, Mich., office, says that those wanting to focus on sustainability or green buildings should take full advantage of resources available through the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).“The USGBC is an outstanding resource regarding sustainability. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program they have developed provides clear requirements for developing green buildings.”

LEED is a national green building rating system designed to help individuals and commercial entities, including colleges and universities, develop high-performance, sustainable buildings. According to the USGBC,“LEED is a framework for assessing building performance and meeting sustainability goals. It is based on well-founded scientific standards. LEED emphasizes state-of-the-art strategies for sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.”

Rose says that washrooms and locker rooms can be very high-consuming spaces. “Following the LEED standards will help to significantly reduce consumption, especially if the public is encouraged to consume less.”

The following design strategies, according to Rose and others in government and the design industry, will contribute to a sustainable washroom and locker room environment.
Lighting: Use high-efficiency fluorescent lights and energy-efficient ballasts. Look for lights that have low-energy consumption. Consider using skylights or clerestory windows to increase daylighting to further reduce energy consumption.
Flooring: Use recycled tile or carpet when possible. For high-end locker rooms, use woods that come from renewable resources. Care must be taken, as some strategies that could be employed in certain situations may not be appropriate in this environment because of the higher moisture and humidity conditions.
Water Conservation: Use showerheads that result in lower consumption and install faucets with sensors at sinks. Ultra-low flush toilets are one step better than low-flush standards.

Waterless urinals, according to Rose, are gaining acceptance. “This product has an ultra-slick surface so water isn’t necessary. The urinals have an immiscible fluid that acts as a barrier at the trap; the fluid must be replaced about every six months, and it’s a quick operation. The initial installation is easier because you only need a drain line instead of both water and drain lines. You also don’t have to contend with flush valves, sensors, etc., which can be maintenance headaches. Waterless urinals are an efficient and economical alternative.”

A Sustainable Approach

Catawba College opened the Center for the Environment in 2001. According to Dr. John Wear, Jr., director for the Center, the 19,800-sq.-ft. project is a model for others to follow. “Catawba has had an environmental program for some time. We wanted a facility that would further foster outreach regarding sustainability and that would give others inspiration to pursue similar courses on their projects.”

The development of the $5.7-million building, which is located on the edge of the college’s 189-acre ecological preserve, was a collaborative effort between many parties. Wear and project architect Karen Alexander, principal of KKA Architects in Salisbury, N.C., taught a class on sustainable architecture that gave students the opportunity to research recycled and recyclable materials. Officials from organizations that work with the center in conservation efforts were interviewed, and they evaluated ways to use the building’s technology as applied examples in courses and seminars.

Wear says that individuals involved with the project wanted to use tried-and-true methods for the center’s design. “We used existing technologies that have proven to be successful through time. New, out-on-the-edge technologies aren’t always successful. We employed design principles and materials that have been used before and that we knew would make this project a model for sustainability. We wanted others to realize that they could apply the same approaches immediately to their projects with a high degree of comfort regarding their use.”

The center is part of a much larger picture at the college, which is now in the process of developing a strategic plan that will include a campus greening initiative. Wear states that the construction of the Center for the Environment was an important component of what is to come on the campus.

Specific Design Features

So what makes the Catawba’s Center for the Environment a great example of sustainable architecture? The site, as with any project, is the foundation for the sustainable approach. “The building is oriented to take full advantage of natural light,” says Alexander. “We put large overhangs on the southeastern side to reduce heat from the summer sun, and an existing bluff shields the building from northern winds.

Alexander and her design team used principles in the washrooms that mirror or are exactly like approaches used throughout the center. “We evaluated ways to reduce consumption and to take advantage of natural resources whenever possible,” says Alexander. “Our evaluation was thorough, and I believe that we’ve hit the mark on not only the washrooms but in other areas as well.”

Using low-flow toilets and installing faucets with sensors to automatically turn water on and off addressed minimizing water consumption. Energy-efficient toilets also contribute to responsible water use. A ground-source water pump is part of the building’s HVAC system and contributes to lower energy use.

Recycled tile made from porcelain and feldspar was used on the floor, and the wall tile by TerraGreen is made from recycled glass. The Koroseal wall coverings are cadmium free and are environmentally sensitive; all wall products meet criteria established by the Environmental Protection Agency. The lights have occupancy sensors to turn off the lights if the washrooms aren’t occupied. Photovoltaic cells capture solar energy, which is used throughout the building. Ceiling tiles manufactured for noise reduction and light reflection were used in the washrooms and throughout the building. And hand dryers eliminate the waste that accompanies the use of paper towels.

Follow LEED

Alexander agrees with Rose that following LEED principles establishes the foundation for sustainability. Administrators have the opportunity to employ sustainable design approaches that may not cost more than less sustainable alternatives. In fact, sustainable design can actually be less costly in the long run, making the decision to go sustainable the right course.