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‘Greening up’ our washrooms

With dire climate emergency warnings continuing to hit headlines, and some experts predicting environmental changes in coming decades will be even tougher to deal with than COVID, how can the washroom play its role in the fight?

As if things weren’t bad enough, formal central banker Mark Carney said this month, that unless current investment into smarter green solutions doubles from its current rates, the world is heading for mortality rates equivalent to the COVID crisis every single year by 2050.  Action – whether as individuals or businesses changing our approach and upping the ante to leading greener lives – must be taken now to avert millions of deaths. And of course, washrooms, and toilets, urinals, basins, taps within them, as part of our societal infrastructure, can play a significant role.

It’s said the Holy Grail is when a brand name, noun or description becomes a verb – think Google, Uber, Facetime, Sellotape. It’s no coincidence that this has happened already in talking about the built environment with the word ‘green’. We’re now ‘greening’ our homes and lives and ‘greening up’ our cars and offices. So how do we ‘green up’ our washrooms?


Praise for the humble urinal

As a response to COVID-19, some commentators are now suggesting replacing urinals in favour of fitting individual toilet cubicles in male washrooms, as outlined in the Open Consultation draft regarding occupancy levels and public requirements/preferences. While we would strongly advocate provision of gender-specific toilets wherever possible, we’re not totally averse to gender neutral toilets, but all options should be considered. For any venue encountering high occupancy levels at peak-traffic times (e.g. intervals at theatres, etc), it can be demonstrated that the best way to cater for male visitors quickly and reduce queueing to a minimum (with associated social distancing tramlines) is by using urinals in a traditional “Gents” facility. In addition to many other benefits, environmental water saving is a huge one.

If the average Premier League stadium replaced their traditional urinals with toilet cubicles for male visitors, the additional water consumption on match days would be 38,676 litres (based on half the male attendance using the facilities, using 3 litres per toilet flush). Over the course of 19 home games during the season, that’s 734,844 extra litres of water used which in layman’s terms is the equivalent of 2 municipal public swimming pools sized 25 x 10 metres with an average depth of 1.5 metres.


Energy Efficiency

The energy efficient performance of the urinal comes down to how the water to/from it is controlled. Arguably the industry standard for cistern-fed urinal applications is the ingenious hydraulic valve, first patented and launched by Cistermiser over 40 years ago. An automatic, purely mechanical method of supplying water to a urinal, the hydraulic valve, normally in the closed position, uses a simple mechanism that presents waste by ensuring an auto-flush cistern is only filled, and can only flush, when the washroom is used. Thanks to the fact it doesn’t require any power supply, more than 500,000 units have been installed in the UK.

Occupancy-sensing infrared control valves, rather than no-power hydraulic valves, are also popular for commercial washrooms due to their water efficiency. Products like the Cistermiser IRC® which automatically manage supply to the urinal cistern and are activated when the PIR sensor detects proximity movement and triggers the solenoid valve, can reduce water consumption by a staggering 80%.

Alternatively, infrared sensor-controlled ‘Direct Flush’ mains-fed urinal valves are also available and often installed in up-market commercial building washroom applications. These automatically flush individual urinals after use, thus ensuring the highest levels of hygiene from the minimum volume of cold water supplies. ‘Discreet’ sensor and easy-maintenance ‘Accessible’ sensor plate with solenoid valve configurations can be specified, depending on the design aesthetic required


Leaking loos

Sadly, water wastage is not simply a result of uneconomic urinal flushing systems. Leaking toilets are the source of a huge amount of wasted water and yet, if a cistern is leaking it often goes completely undetected. A single leaky loo can be responsible for between 250-400 litres of clean, potable drinking water a day, which adds up to estimated 400 million litres of lost water across the country.

The reason this is such a significant issue in commercial settings is that quite often, the toilets installed into commercial settings are in fact domestic models and when placed in commercial settings such as offices, schools and hospitals are used much more frequently, they cannot sustain such consistent use. This leads to broken components and dramatically increases the risk of leaks.

Not only is the Cistermiser Easyflush Infrared W/C Cistern Flush Valve designed to be used specifically in commercial settings, and as such withstand the increased usage, it is also fitted with a water saving delayed action valve. This empties the cistern completely before refilling, thereby ensuring none of the incoming water will be used for flushing.

The world’s current crisis is being managed through isolating and social distancing, but unlike COVID, we’re not going to ‘lockdown out’ of the climate disaster. Each challenge needs a different approach, and in order to make a significant difference on the ongoing environmental crisis, the opposite is required. We need to get hands-on to achieve a positive and lasting impact. That means actively changing how water is managed in your businesses and across your facilities through the implementation of powerful and highly efficient technology. Cistermiser and Keraflo are committed to being part of this positive change and all of our products support that commitment. If you would like to join us on effecting lasting change, speak to our highly knowledgeable team today.


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