Facilities (Building Information Modeling)

What's New in Restrooms and Locker Rooms

What's New in Restrooms and Locker Rooms 


K–12 restrooms and locker rooms continue to evolve. Currently, architects and building product manufacturers are focused on hygiene and vandalism resistance for new as well as renovated restrooms and locker rooms.

Handling these concerns reflects closer collaboration among the members of the building team, thanks to the growing use of three-dimensional building information modeling (BIM) systems.

BIM speeds design and improves efficiency. Contractors can estimate projects faster and encounter fewer conflicts during construction. Owners can understand and comment on the three-dimensional drawings while using a BIM fly-through camera view of interiors.

Building products manufacturers are contributing to these improvements, too, by providing detailed BIM three-dimensional drawings of their products, called BIM objects, on their websites.

American Specialties, Inc., part of the ASI Group, for instance, manufactures a host of washroom accessories and provides BIM objects for architects to download and insert into their designs.

“We pull BIM objects off of websites all the time. BIM makes the design and construction process more integrated. It requires earlier decisions and executions, and it makes us work faster and more efficiently,” says Mike Schipp, AIA, CDT, LEED-AP BD+C, a principal in the Indianapolis office of Fanning Howey, a national K-12 school planning and design firm.

“BIM enables closer collaboration between designers, contractors, subcontractors and owners,” adds Cyrus Boatwalla, director of marketing for the ASI Group. “It also helps building products manufacturers work in more consultative ways with architects.

“We can help architects choose products that will provide the longest life cycle for the application. For instance, we would advise an architect to spec solid plastic or phenolic partitions for humid areas such as shower stalls in locker rooms. Plastic laminate delaminates in moist or humid environments.”

So BIM is enabling substantive collaboration and speeding the design and construction process generally, and in restrooms and locker rooms. Collaborative BIM designs are enhancing hygiene as well as vandalism resistance in restrooms and locker rooms.

Accessories that promote hygiene and resist vandalism

Young people often have not mastered appropriate hygienic practices. Contemporary restroom design, whether in locker rooms or hallway washrooms, is helping to protect K-12 students while at school.

“Keeping restrooms cleaner with hygienic touch-free products is a growing trend. The use of sensor-operated flush valves, faucets, soap dispensers and hand dryers help reduce cross contamination and positively impact student health. Hands-free products also keep restrooms cleaner,” says Kristin Meyers, Market and Product manger with Moen Commercial, a division of North Olmstead, Ohio-based Moen Incorporated.

“Touch-less products also aid in preventing vandalism,” continues Meyers. “Since there is less contact with the products, there are fewer chances to cause damage.”

New high-speed hand dryers illustrate the hygienic benefits of touch-less restrooms. American Specialties offers a model that dries hands in about 12 seconds and eliminates more than 99 percent of airborne bacteria. The air blows down and toward the back of the equipment so no water splashes onto the floor — which would create a slip-and-fall hazard.

High-speed dryers also cut the cost of electricity and paper. “The standard used to evaluate these costs is that a unit in a school restroom or locker room is used 200 times a day 300 days per year,” says Boatwalla. “Based on the national average cost of electricity in May of 2012, the energy used by our dryer costs about $19 per year. That compares to about $1,800 per year to buy paper towels.” High-speed dryers help in the effort to prevent vandalism, too, notes Boatwalla. If there are no paper towels in the restroom, no one can stuff paper towels into the toilets to jam them.

American Specialties offers thicker 16-gauge washroom accessories — the standard is 22-gauge. “We recommend the thicker gauge for high-abuse environments,” Boatwalla says. “Middle schools and high schools probably need the more vandal resistant gauge washroom accessories. Washrooms for elementary schools and teachers only need 22-gauge. So you can be application specific.”

Design’s contribution to hygiene and vandalism prevention

Fanning Howey’s Schipp typically eliminates the doors from student restrooms. Just inside the open doorway, a privacy panel blocks the view from the hallway. Students enter and veer left or right to move around the panel.

Students who don’t wash their hands, using a touch-less faucet and touch-less towel dispenser or hand dryer, don’t touch a door on the way out leaving contamination behind for other students.

The door-less restroom also helps prevent vandalism, as well as smoking, in the restroom. Students will quickly come to understand that noise and smoke will flow freely out into the corridor where a teacher or administrator might be passing.

Schipp uses scrubbable materials to fit out restroom floors, walls and ceilings. “We use 2-inch by 2-inch ceramic, mosaic floor tiles with a curved cove base that starts up the wall,” he says. “That eliminates the right-angled corner at the base of the wall and edge of the floor, making it easy for maintenance to clean.”

It isn’t just easy to clean; it is easy to clean thoroughly, which contributes to overall cleanliness and hygiene.

“I also like to extend the floor tile up the walls, which are made of mold- and impact-resistant drywall or concrete block,” continues Schipp. “Wall tile is typically 4-inch by 4-inch and easier to damage than the smaller floor tiles. They are both made of the same material, but they are processed differently. The floor tile is processed into ceramic mosaic, while the wall tile becomes porcelain, which is easier to break than floor tile.”

The combination of impact-resistant drywall or concrete block and the tougher ceramic floor tile makes the walls more vandalism resistant.

Restroom floors used to slope toward a floor drain, but Schipp says that practice costs too much for today’s budgets. “You still need a floor drain, and since the tile floor is impervious, you can squeegee water into the drain,” he says. “We usually put a hydrant for a hose under the sinks. Since water is already on that wall, there is no added cost.”

On the ceiling, Schipp specifies acoustical tile with a Mylar coating. The Mylar makes it scrubbable and easy to clean — good for maintenance, good for hygiene.

“We’re also fans of wall-mounted toilet fixtures,” Schipp says. “They are more expensive than floor-mounted fixtures, but again, maintenance is easier, because you can mop underneath them.”

Not long ago, restroom designs began using waterless toilets and urinals, but that is changing. There have been complaints about the odor and cleanliness of waterless designs, Schipp says. Today, designers prefer low-flow auto-flush fixtures that use some water — as little as a pint.

Locker room talk

Restroom concepts typically carry over to locker rooms. That said, a number of trends influence the design of locker rooms today.

The first question an architect will ask when it comes to designing locker rooms for a new school is: How many.

Schools usually have male and female locker rooms for physical education and male and female locker rooms for teams.

“For schools with constrained budgets, we can design two locker rooms with the partitioned showers, dressing rooms and toilets arranged so that an overhead door can slide down and split each space in two to accommodate a visiting team,” Schipp says.

Calling moveable benches “knee-bangers and barriers to wheelchairs” when pulled out into the middle of the room, Schipp favors built-in benches that can’t be moved. “I use all-welded lockers in lieu of bolted connections,” says Schiff. “They cost more up front, but last a lot longer. For instance, I’m currently replacing the all-welded lockers in a high school. They were installed 32 years ago. Bolted lockers typically last only 15 to 20 years.

Concrete block forms the walls, and Schipp adds a layer of semi-gloss epoxy paint to make it scrubbable. “High gloss shows too many imperfections,” he says.

To make a long story short, restrooms and locker rooms going into new schools or school renovations today are easier to clean and harder to damage. Perhaps best of all, they promote good health by making students practice personal

This article originally appeared in the School Planning & Management July 2013 issue of Spaces4Learning.