Home American Standard Commercial Restroom Upgrades Become Essential, Not Optional

Commercial Restroom Upgrades Become Essential, Not Optional

Commercial Restroom Upgrades Become Essential, Not Optional
Photo courtesy of Zurn

From the end user to maintenance to facility manager, you’ll find an increased emphasis on sanitation and restroom upgrades because of the continuing and seemingly never-ending threat of the coronavirus.

In a matter of months after the worldwide spread of the virus, manufacturers of restroom products have been fielding calls from their customers and ramping up product selection taking safety, cleanliness and hygiene to the next level.

Here’s what some industry leaders have to say about how COVID-19 continues to transform and impact commercial restrooms.

“The focus on hand hygiene has never been higher. As a result, facility managers are striving to create a restroom environment that minimizes the number of surfaces guests are required to touch,” said Mark Lawinger, Sloan’s senior product manager for flushometers and fixtures. “‘High-touch’ surfaces such as manual faucets and flushometers can be a breeding ground for germs and bacteria. COVID-19 has created an uptick in retrofits to transition to touch-free technology. In nearly all new construction, touch-free operation has become a pre-requisite as a result of the pandemic.

“Additionally, as guests begin to re-enter commercial restrooms this year, maintaining social distancing in crowded restrooms will be a priority. Restroom traffic management systems such as Tooshlights are designed to optimize stall usage, shorten waiting time, and maintain privacy,” he said.

“Touch-free technology was already gaining popularity before the COVID-19 pandemic, and this trend is now certainly here to stay. Looking ahead, sales of sensor faucets are set to grow 28% by 2024 as facility managers continue to safeguard their restrooms with their guests’ health and wellness in mind.”

“At American Standard, we are seeing touchless products on the rise in commercial restrooms to limit touchpoints and the spread of germs,” said James Walsh, vice president of Chinaware and Commercial Products.

“Products like our NextGen Selectronic Integrated Faucet and Ultima Flush Valve use sensor-activated technology to function, eliminating the need to touch the product at all. The NextGen faucet includes a SmarTherm™ Safety Shut-Off temperature limiter to ensure the water is the perfect temperature with every wash,” he said.

According to Will Haas, senior product manager, Bradley Corp, “Facility managers are looking for commercial restroom equipment that supports their hygiene and cleanliness efforts. In particular, they are looking for fixtures that are easy to clean and disinfect, and fixtures that are touchless to eliminate germ touchpoints. Similarly, they are looking for hygienic and non-porous building materials for sinks, washroom accessories like grab bars, and partition doors.

“Facility managers are also looking for ways to minimize operational and maintenance costs. For example, they seek ways to optimize restocking of supplies like soap and towels, which can require extra time and costs, especially in high-traffic restrooms,” he said.

The needs are touchless, hygienic, clean and smart, said Warren Anderson, Zurn’s senior product manager, IOT. “In a time where most facilities are upgrading their restrooms to create a cleaner environment, they also want to future-proof their investment and get the latest technology so in a couple years they do not have to upgrade again. Zurn’s smart technology allows them to install smart today and benefit from continual upgrades on features without having to install new or additional hardware.

A Trend Becomes the New Normal

“Touchless is the new normal,” emphasizes Anderson. “In the COVID environment we now live in, it will be hard to successfully reopen businesses without touch-free devices. Restrooms are a notorious place for the spreading of germs and that is the first place that most businesses are targeting to get their doors reopened.”

Bradley’s 2020 Healthy Handwashing Survey showed that 91% of Americans think it’s important commercial restrooms be equipped with touchless fixtures and 90% say that their preference for touchless handwashing fixtures has risen since the pandemic. Making everything touchless is the top request for restroom improvements.

“Touchless benefits like user convenience, minimizing germs, cleanliness and ease of maintenance have always resonated with the commercial plumbing market. But the coronavirus pandemic accelerated demand for touchless technology, making it the new gold standard in restrooms. Upgrading restrooms with touchless fixtures is a hot trend right now and we expect it will continue as we move into a post-pandemic world,” Haas said.

“At American Standard, we have seen an increase in demand for touchless technology since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Walsh said. “The way we examine health, hygiene and the spread of germs has drastically changed in the last several months and looks to be a trend that will continue. Hands-free technology for the bathroom, whether at home or in public restrooms, and kitchen can help inhibit the spread of germs and bacteria, to keep hands of all sizes cleaner and safer.”

According to Moen data, internet searches for terms like “touchless faucet” and “hands-free faucet” are up nearly 200% in pay-per-click campaigns since the previous year. “This isn’t surprising, since frequent handwashing has been identified as one of the most important measures in reducing the spread of germs and bacteria, and touchless fixtures help make handwashing even easier by removing the need to touch the faucet, thereby helping reduce the spread of dirt and germs,” said Lisa Lasko, senior channel marketing manager for Moen.

Given the current state of the world, products that help support hygiene and health are more important than ever. Moen has offered touchless products for commercial settings for quite some time and has also offered hands-free technology in the kitchen for residential applications. Options like our M-POWER sensor-operated faucets, soap dispensers and flush valves are ideal because they can be operated without touching the fixture, helping keep bathrooms sanitary and reducing the spread of germs,” Lasko said.

Gregory Hunt, Chicago Faucets product manager, Commercial Projects noted the demand was for everything touch free. “Touch-free faucets, soap dispensers, towel dispensers, and hand dryers. Touchless is the is the new normal as facility managers and owners now see the value of how touchless faucets help prevent surface-borne pathogens.”

Energy Savings Benefits for Restroom Upgrades

In addition to its hygienic benefits, sensor-operated technology also delivers the added benefits of energy efficiency and reduced water consumption, leading to cost savings,” Lawinger said. “Some sensor-operated faucets can even provide energy harvesting by using ambient light to extend battery life by up to 10 years. Additionally, sensor-operated faucets also reduce water consumption since water is only activated when hands are in range of the sensor. This results in greater efficiency and water savings when using sensor products.”

American Standard’s touchless products are all water efficient, and many of its products are WaterSense-certified, helping to reduce water use in commercial restrooms and provide facility managers with worry-free operation that saves water, time and money. “American Standard offers the broadest selection of LEED, EPA WaterSense-certified, ADA and NAFTA-compliant commercial products,” Walsh said.

Upgrading to the newest touchless sensor technology traditionally comes with a reduction of water consumption. “When you talk smart and touchless, you can now manage cleanliness of a smart restroom based on usage instead of having your staff ‘make rounds,’” said Anderson. “When it comes to replacement parts such as solenoids and diaphragms, you can replace those based on usage as well and avoid replacing parts that still have life left in them. Many building owners are surprised how unevenly faucets and flush valves are used in their facility when they start to receive data from Zurn Smart faucets and flush valves. One flush valve could have a diaphragm that lasts an extra year or more based on usage so replacing them all at once gets expensive.”

The majority of Chicago Faucets meet the EPA’s WaterSense requirements or better. “We always look for ways to save water and power,” Hunt said. “As we look for ways to save electricity, we offer faucets that operate on a Self-Sustaining Power System that uses your water supply to the faucet to power the electronics. More recently we introduced the Long-Term Power Supply that will power your faucet up to 30 years. No more power lines to the faucet or changing batteries.”

“All Moen Commercial products, including the M-POWER line are designed to reduce total cost of ownership, or lifetime cost, for facilities by cutting back on maintenance costs, preventing vandalism, providing water saving options and maintaining performance standards,” Lasko said.

The M-POWER sensor-operated faucet line offers Metering Mode, which adjusts the run time of fixtures between 10 to 180 seconds. This ensures water runs for the necessary amount of time called for by the applications, but no longer.

M-POWER sensor-operated faucets and flush valves also offer Battery Life Extending Technology which provides up to 8-years of power with four standard AA alkaline batteries – meaning they last longer while requiring less maintenance time spent on changing batteries in the fixtures.

Moen Commercial Flush Valves, both manual and sensor-operated, feature Brass Pistons, which are designed to be self-cleaning and not break down over time due to harsh water conditions or debris in the line — unlike common plastic or rubber diaphragms that may need to be replaced one or more times annually per unit depending on water use and conditions. As such, Brass Pistons are a huge benefit to both the maintenance staff and budget.

Bradley Corp’s WashBar’s clean+rinse+dry technology conserves water and cuts maintenance costs. The WashBar has a large 1-gallon replaceable soap dispenser, which requires fewer refills and saves on maintenance. Its faucet features a 0.5 GPM or ultra-high efficient 0.35 faucet option. Its adjustable speed hand dryer cuts paper towel waste and is 96% less expensive to use than paper towels.  Further, the WashBar’s sensors are programmed to eliminate simultaneous activations of nearby functions, saving wasted water and energy.

“As for hand drying options, while both paper towels and hand dryers are good hand drying options, many facility managers believe that hand dryers are more efficient on several levels,” Haas said. “As for cost, paper towel dispensers may be less expensive upfront but they have ongoing costs and maintenance: repurchasing paper towels, restocking, trash emptying, and cleaning up dropped paper towels from floors and countertops, etc. Then there is the used towel waste that collects in trash receptacles that needs to be emptied by staff. Wall-mounted and in-sink hand dryers incorporate sleek aesthetics and take up less space within restrooms.

“Beyond performance, hygiene and convenience, touchless fixtures are easier to keep clean, maintain and service than touch-activated fixtures,” Haas said.

What’s Next for Commercial Restroom Upgrades

“The post-pandemic landscape of how we interact and treat public spaces calls for us to rethink commercial restroom design altogether to accommodate space for physical distancing and maintain clean surfaces,” Walsh said. “In addition to the need for touchless products to limit touchpoints, the current public restrooms are designed with lavatory sinks, toilets and urinals currently stacked side-by-side to optimize limited space, leaving little distance between them so that we are victims to splashing and possible spreading of unwanted germs. To avoid this, we are designing products to limit splashing for fixtures and faucets, expanding the splash testing we do on toilets and urinals to mainstream sinks and faucets.”

“All American Standard commercial ceramic surfaces (sinks, urinals and toilets) are made with our EverClean antimicrobial surface to inhibit the growth of stain and odor-causing bacteria, mold and mildew. This design keeps the surfaces cleaner, helps the products last longer and aids in keeping germs from spreading.  We expect to see more materials like this in commercial bathroom design across the industry in the coming years.”

Touchless will extend beyond faucets, toilets, soap dispensers and hand dryers. “The restroom of the future will likely be an entirely touch-free experience — from entry to exit. Restroom design is also starting to evolve with social distancing and increased privacy in mind. Elements such as floor-to-ceiling stall partitions and sinks and urinals spaced six feet apart will become increasingly common in commercial restrooms moving forward,” Lawinger said.

Zurn is far down the path of defining what restrooms will look like in the future,” said Anderson. “They are touchless, smart, can monitor cleanliness and manage consumables. They will be able to be remotely monitored from anywhere and allow managers to deploy their cleaning staff based on usage and not on set schedules. Large inventories of consumable items and interrupting traffic during peak usage times will become a thing of the past.”

Like so many other products homeowners and facility managers utilize, the commercial bathroom is getting more “smart.”

“Everything in our world is getting connected to something,” Hunt said. “Why not the bathroom? Providing a facility manager the ability to know that everything is working or something is not from their cell phone or tablet will become more commonplace in the years to come.”