Tips for preparing commercial restrooms before reopening your building

by Brianna Crandall — May 8, 2020 — Sloan, a Chicago area-based manufacturer of commercial plumbing systems used around the world, has developed a guide indicating best practices for commercial buildings in order to reduce water safety risks as facilities around the country begin to reopen from shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sloan warns that there are serious risks associated with prolonged system inactivity. Water that sits in plumbing lines for extended periods of time becomes stagnant, which could lead to elevated levels of lead and copper. This water also has the potential to contain little to no residual disinfectant, which could lead to elevated levels of bacteria or other microbiological contaminants.

Dr. Andrew Whelton, associate professor of Civil Engineering and Environmental and Ecological Engineering at Purdue University, stated:

Facilities should keep water moving through their buildings to minimize problems associated with bacterial contamination. Plumbing fixtures that can be programmed to automatically purge potable plumbing lines can greatly reduce the potential for complications and health risks associated with stagnant water.

For flushometers, Sloan’s guidelines recommend starting the water-purging process with water closets and urinals located the farthest from the branch lines and flushing the first water closet and/or urinal at least three times. Each subsequent water closet and urinal only needs to be flushed twice.

In the case of urinals with ultra-low flush volumes (0.125-0.25 gpf), five to six flushes are required. Pressure-assisted and tank-type toilets should also be flushed a minimum of three times, while allowing a full setup and re-pressurization in between each flush.

Automatic faucets are easily flushed simply by placing a hand underneath the faucet for a minimum of 30 seconds. Faucet sprayheads should be removed after the flushing process to remove debris and sanitized in a bleach solution, if not replaced altogether, says Sloan.

Employee safety throughout the flushing process is critical, as initial flushes of stagnant water have the potential to release chemical and microbiological contaminants. Guidance on worker safety for Legionella control and prevention can be found on the OSHA website.

The Sloan Building Commissioning Guide is available to download free from the Sloan website.

COVID-19 operations and contracts

The company recently announced that it has provided its touch-free restroom products to support the conversion of Chicago’s renowned McCormick Place Convention Center and Yale University’s Payne Whitney Gymnasium’s Lanman Center into temporary field hospitals — or COVID-19 Care Centers — due to the overflow of patients suffering from COVID-19.

With 500 beds in makeshift rooms, plumbing requirements at McCormick Place called for over 200 Sloan sensor faucets in handwashing stations, and Sloan partnered with local customers to deliver these hygiene-friendly solutions. The Army Corps of Engineers planned to build an additional 2,500 beds throughout the facility’s 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space; however, slowing numbers of COVID-19 cases due to stay-at-home compliance caused the Corps to stop at 1,000 beds, and now much of the hospital is “thankfully” being deconstructed, according to Chicago officials.

Yale University’s Payne Whitney Gymnasium’s Lanman Center was also converted to a temporary field hospital, first for those in the Yale community who were not as seriously ill, then under the management of the Yale New Haven Health system. The facility needed to retrofit its existing manual faucets and flushometers to provide a more sanitary environment for the influx of patients. The existing faucets were replaced with Sloan sensor-operated faucets, and new Sloan sensor flushometers were installed to provide a touch-free experience.

Deemed an essential business, Sloan plant employees continue to manufacture products for critical facilities across the world. As Sloan works to fill these orders and provide donations, the company says the health and safety of the company’s employees, customers, and partners remains of the utmost importance.

In operation since 1906, Sloan is on the front lines of the green building movement and provides sustainable restroom solutions by manufacturing water-efficient products such as flush valves, electronic faucets, and soap dispensing systems, sink systems and vitreous china fixtures for commercial, industrial and institutional markets worldwide.