Palm Beach Schools Committed to Saving Water and Labor with Waterfree Urinals

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff April 23, 2007

Students in Dennis Yuzenas’ American History classes at Bak Middle School of the Arts (MSOA) know a thing or two about the waterfree urinals.For instance, they know that each urinal installed at the West Palm Beach, FL School is saving up to 40,000 gallons of water per year. Mr. Yuzenas has told them so.

He’s also taken time to explain the importance of water conservation and how critical it has become in southern Florida, as well as other parts of the country where the water shortages threaten the environment.

“We discussed water free urinals as one example of a micromanaged approach to resolving our energy crisis–the idea being that thru proactive conservation we can limit our need to build more water and sewage plants.”

Bak MSOA is one of several Palm Beach School District schools that have installed Falcon Waterfree Urinals.In 2004the school district made the formal decision to install water free urinals in all new middle and high schools.The district is also systematically replacing any older model urinal that uses more than one gallon of water per flush.

The replacement project began with several pilot installations to test the effectiveness and practicality of the units.After reviewing the performance, savings, and other advantages, Lee Kapp, Utilities/Energy Manager for The Palm Beach County School District, became an enthusiastic proponent of water free urinals.

“Naturally, we wanted the quickest payback, and that’s what we got when we decided to replace the old units, which were using 3 gallons per flush,” says Mr. Kapp.Since that time, Palm Beach School District has installed approximately 300 water free urinals saving the county up to 8 million of gallons of water per year.

There were other advantages that helped convinced Mr. Kapp and the Palm Beach County School Board.The new urinals have had a significant impact on a problem that all middle and high schools constantly struggle with:restroom vandalism.Because you don’t flush water free urinals, foreign objects (paper towels, pencils, gym socks, report cards, etc) can’t clog up the system.This means fewer bathroom floods as well as savings on maintenance and replacement of traditional urinals.The units are also virtually impossible to damage.Even the most determined high school fullback would be hard pressed to rip a water free urinal from the wall.

How It Works:
The key to water free urinals is a biodegradable liquid sealant which floats on top of any fluid beneath it and essentially seals off any odor from the depths of the urinal.The sealant is contained in a replaceable cartridge that is installed at the bottom of the urinal into a fitting that is connected to a drainpipe.This cartridge typically requires replacement 3-4 times a year, depending on frequency of uses.

Maintaining the units is no more labor intensive that a regular urinal—just a little different.School custodians simply wipe down the urinals with a recommended cleaner, as they would any other type of urinal.Replacing the cartridges takes a couple minutes to change out and is only required every 7,000 uses in typical installations.Palm Beach School District plumbers have added this minor task to their routine maintenance procedures, which they consider to be a very fair trade, considering that they have no more plumbing emergencies with Waterfree urinals.The cartridge change process is simple enough that the plumbers declined the free training Falcon Waterfree offered.

A DVD video is now available from Falcon Waterfree that demonstrates both the daily cleaning practices and replacement of the cartridge.

Installation of the water free urinals has significantly reduced the labor required to deal with plumbing mishaps and abuse common to many high use facilities, said Mr. Kapp.With flushable urinals, a clogged drain or a failed valve could go undetected for weeks, resulting in flooding, water waste, and unplanned maintenance.All of this is avoided with a urinal that doesn’t require water.Not surprisingly, this has appealed to the custodians who have to deal with these issues.

“Since the installations, several of our custodial coordinators have requested the water free urinals in their schools as soon as possible,” says Mr. Kapp.

A Reputation for Being GREEN
Palm Beach School District has acquired a reputation throughout Florida for its forward thinking building practices.The high volume of water free urinals is just one example of how the school district is raising the bar for Florida schools in terms of efficient, environmentally conscious facilities.From computerized energy management programs that provide constant monitoring and adjustment of mechanical systems to recycling programs, the district is setting an important example for schools throughout Florida.This is a point pride for Lee Kapp and the Environmental Control Office at Palm Beach School District.

“My job is to make sure we build the most energy efficient schools we can,” says Mr. Kapp.

Given the 1.3 million population of Palm Beach County, Dennis Yuzenas understands and applauds the “green” decisions being made throughout the school district.The water free urinals at Bak MSOA are a constant reminder that certain choices can make a difference.In the case of water free urinals, that’s a difference of 40,000 gallons of water per unit per year.

“The kids appreciate it,” says Mr. Yuzenas, “They say it’s just common sense.”