For those that have been following the Twins Stadium and its sustainable design and attributes, which by the way was just this month awarded the LEED Silver rating by the USGBC , may recall the earlier decision by the Minnesota Plumbing Board to recommend using low flow units instead of the specified waterless urinals. While this may have initially seemed to be a disappointment, in hindsight the board may have made a prudent decision. Two other buildings that had installed waterless urinals previously have now made the decision to remove them due to smell and back up issues; Chicago’s City Hall and the Environmental Protection Agency’s office in Sacramento . So not to imply an apples to apples comparison here , the Chicago City Hall fixtures were part of a renovation on an existing building within a city that’s code requires copper plumbing and the Sacramento EPA offices are a 25 story high rise. All of these having the same principles but with distinct dynamics affecting each of their plumbing systems.
These fixtures do require a bit of maintenance; an oil reservoir that keeps odors down by maintaining a film of oil over the drain needs to be refilled and it’s recommended to pour a few gallons of water into them every two weeks or so. They also do not have the anti-splash qualities that most users are perhaps accustomed to, resulting in a bit of residual ‘leftovers’ around the units. Considering the literal volume these units would have experienced, I can understand the reluctance behind the initial request for these in the Twins ballpark. Could the ballpark have used these successfully? Perhaps, but with more strikes than hits for waterless urinals, I think the decision to use a proven method to reduce water usage with low-flow fixtures was a good call.
This episode does underscore our mission here at Build Sustainable Homes, that experienced professionals are the difference between a projects’ success and difficulties. Specifying new materials and products is a risky endeavor, and finding the professionals who have the first hand knowledge and consensus on how they perform for the life cycle is our best resource in helping sustainable and green practices succeed.