With three quarters of a million people passing through this iconic train station daily, the public restrooms there see a lot of traffic. There are 44 train platforms, 68 shops, and 35 restaurants situated across the facility’s 48-acre footprint.
Steve Stroh, assistant deputy director of electrical/mechanical maintenance at the station, discusses the project.
By Facility Executive Staff
From the December 2017 Issue
What is your role at Grand Central Terminal? What’s it like to work at such a historic landmark?
My official title is assistant deputy director of electrical/mechanical maintenance. Essentially, anything that generates electricity at Grand Central Terminal is my responsibility. It’s definitely interesting to be part of a place that’s so rich in history and known to people all over the world. I’ve been here over 30 years have watched it change, but the general design and feel have been preserved. Grand Central features some very distinct architecture, and I think many people come just to see and appreciate that.
Grand Central is the nation’s busiest train station. How many people pass through each day?
We see about 750,000 daily visitors, and roughly 200,000 of them are not there to ride the train. Grand Central has 68 shops and 35 restaurants in addition to our legendary commuter services [across 44 train platforms]. A lot of people come here to shop and eat, including about 10,000 a day just for lunch. So, it stands to reason that most of our visitors also use the restrooms.
What were the motivating factors and goals for this project?
We’ve made a number of upgrades to Grand Central over the years, including updating the electrical, plumbing, and lighting systems led by our sustainability team. When it came time to upgrade the restrooms, we sought out the best solutions in terms of sustainability, cleanliness, and performance.
In the past, all the public bathrooms at Grand Central had paper towels. These would get thrown on the floor or into the toilets, which would get plugged and overflow. In our employee restrooms, we had also tried trough-style hand dryers. But it was a test that didn’t pass. Those dryers required more maintenance and collected excess water and waste, and we had problems with operation.
Ultimately, we decided to install 24 XLERATOR hand dryers from Excel Dryer in all the restrooms. We chose a white model, and added custom special imagery to each to convey the Grand Central Terminal brand.
What was the research process like?
I was on a fishing trip with my boss when I used an XLERATOR dryer for the first time at a rest stop. I remember thinking, “Those jet dryers really worked.” They were heavy duty. We thought if those could hold up to the abuse of a public rest area, they would be a great option for Grand Central.
We dug around and researched the XLERATOR and saw that it also had a lot of green certifications, so that was a huge plus. These hand dryers use 80% less energy than conventional hand dryers. [The original, patented, high-speed, energy efficient XLERATOR hand dryer recorded an eight second* dry time and 3.7 Wh* of energy per use.]
Ultimately, we removed paper towels from all restrooms and replaced them with these dryers.
Thus far, what results have you seen from this facility retrofit?
More than anything, the maintenance, cleanup, and repair times have dramatically decreased. Not only has XLERATOR eliminated the messes and other headaches we faced with paper towels, but also it’s better performing and much easier to manage than the previous dryers we tried. With those dryers, you’d stick something in and it would trip out, and we’d have to reset it because it didn’t automatically reset. We’ve installed the newest version of XLERATOR, which has a sensor so it won’t overheat. If you use the dryer too long, it’ll shut it off and let the machine cool down before it turns on again. It also has a new filtration system with a sensor, which goes off if the system ever needs maintenance. We have a lot to do in the terminal, and we don’t want to keep going in and taking hand dryers apart, getting complaints that the hand dryer doesn’t work.
It’s also far more convenient for our visitors. In the past, the ladies’ room always had a line because the old dryers took so long. The XLERATOR dries hands fast. So, the new dryers have really worked out well. In fact, the restrooms in Grand Central Terminal have been called the best in New York City [by Joan Hamburg of WABC, known as New York Radio’s First Lady].
What’s been your experience working with Excel Dryer?
The company itself has been great. Excel Dryer offers an unbeatable warranty and excellent customer support. If we can’t clean one of the XLERATORs or make it work, we’ll box it up and we’ll send it back. They’ll either fix it or they’ll send us a new one. But, all told, since we installed the XLERATORs, probably over a year ago, we haven’t had to replace any of them.
Plus, Excel Dryer really got to understand the unique needs of the facilities at Grand Central. They recommended XLERATOR custom covers, which come in a variety of colors, textures and finishes. I had no trouble selecting one to fit in with the décor. An added benefit was the vandal-resistant coating and finish. Our XLERATOR Hand Dryers take a lot of abuse. So, the new covers are great for our application because we can scrub them to get rid of graffiti and keep them clean.
Do you think paper towels have left the station for good?
Given all the benefits we’ve seen with XLERATOR hand dryers, I’d say Grand Central has given paper towels and other dryers a one-way ticket out of town.
* Dry time and energy use testing performed by SGS International on standard XLERATOR Hand Dryer with 0.8″ nozzle to 0.25g or less of residual moisture, pursuant to the UL Environment Global Product Category Rules (PCR) for Hand Dryers.
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