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Cleaning up in the washroom

FMJ talk to experts who provide insight into how washrooms can be designed to make the job of facilities managers easier in terms of choice of materials as well as new products such as integrated consumables

As with pretty much anything else an FM’s options when it comes to washrooms are limited by costs. More than ever FMs are expected to maintain an excellent service level with reduced budgets and staff levels.

But there are ways that facilities managers can cut their washroom costs other than simply buying cheaper products without compromising on quality.

But how many of these things need to be integrated into the design from the very beginning? FMJ spoke to Paul Trendall, continuous improvement director at Emprise to find out.

“Washroom design, like all great design, means getting basics right; and one of those basics is about how the facility will be cleaned once it is in daily use.

“So, let’s give some thought to the design of the toilet cubicle. Make it big enough so that when it comes to cleaning it is possible to use some form of mechanical mopping either side of the pedestal. Too often the cubicles are so narrow, the one area which demands mechanical mopping to ensure it is properly cleaned is so small that it can only be hand-mopped.

“Then let’s think about hand driers. How many times do we find hand driers, which blow the water off the user’s hands, on the opposite wall to the sinks? After washing, wet hands – drip water on the floor, and are then moved across the room to a hand drier which blows the water… onto the floor. It’s like having a slip hazard designed in from the start, and it increases the time and cost of servicing the washroom. Why not mount the hand driers by the sinks where the water is blown into the sink or onto the vanity unit and stays off the floor?

“Finally, we should think about the floor. Nice ceramic tiles seem to be the floor of choice these days, but whoever thought that white grouting was a good idea? This is a design choice which leaves the FM having to decide whether to live with grouting that is stained and detracts from the look of the floor, or devote time and money to keeping it pristine. It’s not a choice they should have to make.

“Three simple things and a washroom can be more hygienic, safer and better looking; there’s not much not to like.”

Of course everyone is aware that washrooms are not the most glamorous part of any building, especially the ones in a flashy skyscraper or ultra modern HQ but that doesn’t change the fact that they are essential to the smooth running of an organisation.

Studies have shown that almost 90 per cent of people would not return to an organisation if the washrooms seemed unhygienic. Half said that poor hygiene had driven them away from buildings in the past. Commonly mentioned problems were dirty toilets, flush handles and cubicle handles.

It’s not just building visitors who expect good hygiene. According to a study conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), employers lose on average £700 per employee per year as a result of failing to create a healthy workplace environment.

The research revealed that 39 per cent of UK office workers believe that better hygiene would not only protect them from unwanted illness but also increase their level of job satisfaction.

A report conducted by Cebr states: “In total, poor office hygiene is expected to have reduced UK GDP by 0.8 per cent or £13.7 billion in 2013, due to workers taking time off sick and by affecting their time while at work. Sick leave as a result of poor hygiene cost the UK economy £4.2 billion last year. Shockingly £9.5 billion was lost due to the time wasted as a result of poor hygiene, such as queuing for a clean toilet, washing dirty dishes or going further to find a washroom with suitable facilities – all factors that can waste valuable time in workers’ days.”

But what things should an FM be aware of when designing their washrooms? Common recommendations include using outer partitions to screen off the facilities instead of doors since this limits the scope for cross-contamination. Automatic lighting again reduces the risk of washroom users spreading germs via the light switches.

It is often said that people prefer paper hand towels over hand driers. There is a myth that the latter are unhygienic, but this has not been the case for many years. Bulk buying has also been criticised, instead most experts recommend monitoring footfall to work out how often you need to resupply on things like hand towels, loo roll and cleaning chemicals.

Lastly and perhaps most depressingly was the insistence that consumables need to be kept in secure dispensers. Anything that isn’t nailed down is liable to go missing. This means locked cupboards and dispenser systems to cut down on waste. Eliminating petty theft of everything from loo rolls and air freshners to cleaning products can dramatically reduce an organisation’s washroom costs.

Even if you design the perfect washroom that doesn’t mean you can overlook the importance of regular maintenance. A leaking tap that drips a few times a second may not seem like anything major, but once you’ve accounted for the aggregated losses over an entire year, it can be a major issue.

Similar cumulative savings can be made by adjusting the flow on taps, showers and toilet flushes. A minor adjustment, not large enough to impact on service quality, can nevertheless save large amounts of money when viewed over the long term

Jerry-rigged or ill-designed systems need constant repairs, which often only cause more issues down the line. Oversized plumbing systems in larger washrooms can also lead to a decrease in water quality due to stagnation. In 2013 alone over £2.5 billion was spent rectifying avoidable plumbing errors.

About Sarah OBeirne

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