By Patrick Boyle
From the April 2022 Issue
According to the EPA, 37% of water use occurs in commercial and institutional buildings. While this certainly presents a challenge for facility management, it’s also an opportunity to conserve water through the use of touchless fixtures that help reduce operating costs, promote sustainability, and increase health and hygiene.
Sensor Faucets. A relatively easy way to start saving water in commercial restrooms is with faucets. The Covid-19 pandemic made hygiene a higher priority than ever for commercial restroom users, many of whom trained themselves to wash their hands for a full 20 seconds. Still, this sends an excessive amount of water down the drain. An effective solution to reduce this waste is sensor faucets that can be programmed with time-outs to shut off water while users lather and scrub.
Reclaimed Water Flushometers. With fresh water a scarcer commodity, developers are considering a new approach—flushing with reclaimed water from rain, sinks, showers, and washing machines. Schools, stadiums, office buildings, restaurants, hotels, and healthcare are beginning to specify flushometers designed to handle reclaimed water—an ideal approach for new construction or major retrofits with reclaimed water infrastructure.
High-Efficiency Urinals. There’s also a great opportunity to conserve water in urinals. Commercial restrooms with water-efficient urinals could use up to 36% less water for flushing than residential restrooms. Water-free urinals can save facilities thousands of gallons of water each year, while hybrid urinals use just two gallons per week and only require maintenance every three or four months.
Buildings are beginning to take a step into the future by integrating the Internet of Things (IoT). In short, the IoT is a network of physical devices that collect and exchange data. In commercial restrooms, this technology helps facilities identify and resolve issues early on. It also helps prepare for high-traffic and peak restroom usage.
By accessing real-time data through flush monitors, sensors embedded in paper and soap dispensers, and sensor-operated faucets, facility managers can track water usage. Once peak usage times are identified, buildings can plan other high-water-usage events–such as laundry—for off-peak times to help manage demand.
Connected restroom technology can also detect run-ons and double flushes and can track water usage down to the product and restroom. Commercial restrooms that utilize IoT innovations have been shown to cut wastewater by 80%.
When paired with IoT technology, touch-free restroom fixtures are making significant real-world impacts on water savings in some of the most high-traffic markets imaginable: sporting venues.
Home to the NFL’s Denver Broncos, Empower Field at Mile High conducted a water savings study with the stadium’s facility maintenance team after its restrooms were upgraded with touch-free faucets and flushometers, hygienic water closets, urinals, and lavatories. The analysis concluded that with these sustainable products, Empower Field at Mile High is positioned to save 277,000 gallons of water during each Broncos game. With 10 home games per year, that amounts to a little under three million gallons saved per season. And that doesn’t include the additional 300 events the stadium hosts each year.
With facility management on the cutting edge of technological change, restroom fixtures integrated with IoT technology can help achieve meaningful water saving benefits for long-lasting results.
Boyle is director of corporate sustainability at Sloan, a leading manufacturer of commercial plumbing systems.
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