A Simple Facelift in the Restroom Can Save Money, Reduce Maintenance and Improve Your School’s Image

    Every business and organization today is looking for ways to reduce costs without reducing the quality of its services. This is especially true of private universities as they seek ways to trim operating expenses to help make higher education more affordable for a broader range of students.

    Facilities managers have found a variety of ways to support this goal, such as using more energy-efficient lighting fixtures and ensuring that lights and other electrically-powered devices like classroom computers are shut off when not in use.  While it may not be the first area that comes to mind, a few simple changes in restroom fixtures can help also to reduce significant costs while keeping the restroom clean and sanitary for both students and employees.

    New technology builds in efficiency 

    One of the best ways to control the costs associated with restroom sanitation and maintenance is to build in convenience and functionality so that the restroom itself provides fewer opportunities for litter and contamination that can drive up maintenance expenses. There are a number of new technologies that allow for efficient and sanitary fixtures that require less maintenance.

    Replacing paper towel dispensers with high-speed hand dryers eliminates the cost of ordering, inventorying and restocking paper towels, as well as reduces the maintenance time and labor required for cleaning up used paper towels. For example, consider that most people use an average of 2.5 paper towels to dry their hands at a cost of approximately 1.06 cents per person. Now multiply that by the number of people using your restrooms daily. By contrast, a high-speed hand dryer can dry a person’s hands for an average of .04 cents—that’s only one-quarter of the cost of paper towels. That cost savings adds up over the course of a year.

    Less maintenance reduces costs

    Eliminating the use of paper towels in the restroom also helps reduce maintenance costs. Wet, used paper towels often overflow trash receptacles and can then end up scattered on the floor, or worse, clogging drains. Consider, too, the shelf space required for stocking the paper towel supply, as well as the time it takes employees to restock dispensers and dispose of the waste. High-speed hand dryers help keep a restroom clean and eliminate the frustration of trying to use a jammed-full paper towel dispenser or finding it empty. New motor technology means hand dryers can operate for years on minimal maintenance.

    Go touch-free for sanitation, cleanliness benefits

    Handles on faucets, toilets and other fixtures in restrooms can carry the viruses and bacteria that cause colds and the flu. To help solve this problem, many facility managers consider “touch-free” hand dryers, soap dispensers, faucets, and even toilet paper dispensers, which eliminate the need to touch the surfaces where many other hands have been. With touch-free hand dryers, any movement under the nozzle triggers a flow of air to dry hands without direct contact with the unit. For even further protection, some hand dryers offer anti-microbial technology to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria on the dryer itself and extend the life of the hand dryer.

    Similar to the paper towel mess, soap mess on the countertop can offer a negative perception of the cleanliness of your restroom and discourage people from washing their hands.  In addition to going with touch-free soap dispensers, consider using foam soap, that drop into the hand from an automatic dispenser rather than spraying liquid, which can leave a soap string that may pool onto the countertop or in the sink as well as clog the drains.

    Sustainable practices that pay

    When it comes to conserving natural resources, replacing paper towels with hand dryers may at first appear to be trading one set of carbon emissions for another. However, according to EPA estimates, producing a single ton of paper requires 7,000 gallons of water, 360 gallons of oil, 158 million BTUs of energy and as much as two to four tons of trees. By contrast, over its lifetime, one hand dryer will produce three tons less CO2 than the production of the paper towels it replaces.

    Many colleges and universities have launched programs to generate environmental awareness and promote the key concepts of “reduce, re-use, and recycle.” These principles can and should be applied to restrooms by improving their efficiency and functionality. For instance, the motion sensor-controlled toilets and faucets help conserve water usage.

    In another example, replacing paper towels with hand dryers serves the environment in several ways:

    • Today’s energy-efficient hand dryers use as much as 88 percent less energy than older models, and they dry hands faster.
    • High-speed hand dryers are available that allow you to turn on or off heat; turning off the heat further reduces the hand dryer’s energy consumption.
    • While paper towels can be made from recycled paper, they can’t be recycled themselves, so disposing of them creates millions of cubic feet of waste in landfills.

    Focus on the big picture

    Restroom fixtures may seem like a minor consideration compared to the complexity of maintaining a university. However, selecting carefully can go a long way to help reduce maintenance and energy costs. Studies have shown automatic hand dryers can save businesses up to 99 percent in operation costs as compared to paper towels—removing much of the maintenance involved in restroom upkeep, including restocking and disposal. By improving the functionality and efficiency of restroom fixtures, you can reduce and even eliminate some maintenance costs and help improve your institution’s bottom line.

    As seen in Building Operating Management, February 2014, issue.