Simple steps to better hygiene

Upgrading your school washrooms over the summer recess can both improve hygiene and reduce water waste, says David Meacock

The provision of clean and hygienic washroom facilities is rightly considered vital for the welfare of students and staff. Adequate amenities backed up with advice and education all help ensure that a school provides healthy washroom environments which can set the standard of cleanliness for the whole building.

In recent years there have been a number of high-profile campaigns designed to highlight the impact that unpleasant, poorly maintained washrooms can have on students’ physical and psychological health. And of course there are other considerations associated with washrooms, such as their efficiency and the need to minimise mains water use in order to lower their environmental impact and cut the school’s water bills.

Upgrading washrooms to address these issues can be done relatively easily, at relatively little cost and often in as little as 24 hours. For many schools, it’s largely a case of installing new fixtures and fittings that can improve water management while allowing for ‘user behaviour’, including the ability of school-age users to interact with the new technology.

For example, toilets with flush handles can be quickly upgraded with the addition of infrared sensors and flush valves onto a standard cistern. The infrared sensors ensure contact between user and washroom is minimised, either by a simple ‘wave action’ to flush, or a ‘walkaway’ option whereby the toilet automatically flushes once the user stands up. The latter was developed by Cistermiser engineers in a collaboration with students and staff at the Cathays High School in Cardiff. With no need to flush manually, washroom facilities are kept clean with no lingering smells and a reduced risk of bacterial infection.

Taps can be similarly upgraded through the simple act of installing a new tap or spout with an integral infrared sensor to turn water on/off. These taps fit into standard holes within the basin, with no need for retiling or basin replacement.

Finally, urinals in older school buildings can be extremely heavy users of water. Urinal flush control valves and infrared technology can combine extremely effectively to reduce water use by as much as 80 percent. Again, these can be retrofitted within an existing washroom, but can make a material difference to the school’s water bills while keeping the facilities clean and hygienic.

All these ‘no touch’ systems that are activated by user behaviour help ensure that water is not wasted either through leaking taps and failed flush valves, or through acts of deliberate vandalism.

Infrared sensors can also be used to control the energy as well as the water output in a washroom. Visitors are detected by a sensor which then automatically switches on the lights and ventilation as well as the water supply.

In terms of school buildings, there is currently a BREEAM requirement in the procurement frameworks managed by the Education Funding Agency. Washroom control systems such as those discussed above can help to score in the BREEAM categories that relate to water, energy, heating and ventilation and can boost a new build or refurbishment’s score.

David Meacock is technical director at Cistermiser

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