Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Royal Flush

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Royal Flush

Article excerpt

Water-free urinals help facilities reduce maintenance, cut costs and go green

By 2026, world demand for water will surpass its supply by 56 percent, according to information from the United Nations. This global dilemma is already being felt throughout today's real estate industry.

Rising costs for water and sewer utilities, as well as a growing awareness of buildings' effects on the environment, have become points of concern for real estate owners and managers. In an effort to conserve water and reduce costs at their facilities, many managers are exploring alternative plumbing solutions like water-free urinals.


Originally invented in 1989, waterfree urinals work without water, flush valves or other mechanical controls. Instead, most available units rely on disposable cartridges. The cylinder-shaped cartridges are filled with liquid sealant that acts as a one-way valve, floating above the urine to provide an airtight barrier between the draining urine and the restroom, and prevent odors from escaping. Uric sediment is collected inside the cartridge and the remaining urine flows down the drain.

While standard flush urinals currently dominate the market, the last few years have seen water-free urinals make headway. They now appear in many high-profile locations, including Disney World, the IBM research headquarters in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., the Florida Marlins' Pro Player Baseball Stadium and the Taj Mahal, and they have been embraced by prominent environmentalists like former Vice President Al Gore.

Properties transitioning to waterfree technology have enjoyed the results. The Miami Beach Convention Center used to experience recurring problems like clogs, and had to make daily repairs to gaskets and valves. With more than a half million people attending national and international events at the center, these problems proved costly and inconvenient.

In 1999 the center converted its bathrooms, making it the first facility in Miami Beach, Fla., to install water-free urinals. The urinals save the center more than 3 million gallons of water each year, significantly reducing water and sewage costs.


More property owners and developers are realizing they too can benefit from the water-free technology, which significantly reduces water, sewer and plumbing costs; increases sanitation; and reduces maintenance.

Falcon Waterfree Technologies, a manufacturer of waterless alternatives, estimates each of its commercially installed urinals conserves an average of 40,000 gallons of freshwater per year.

Because no water piping is connected to the urinals, the costs for installation and maintenance of the units are quite low. Once installed, property managers don't have to worry about servicing flush controls, fixing water flow sensors or replacing batteries. Leaks and floods aren't a concern either.

Randy Coble, vice president of marketing for Falcon, said urinals reliant on water can cost property owners $50 to $100 in general maintenance per unit each year - not including the cost of emergencies like floods or plugged drains. He also said flush urinals present sanitation problems because they get wet and are often controlled by touch.

"Water actually contributes to the growth of bacteria development," Coble said. "Because water-free urinal bowls are dry, they harbor five times fewer bacteria than a flush urinal."

Water-free urinals also conserve energy, cutting back on the tremendous amount of electrical energy expended by municipalities transporting and treating water from flush urinals. …

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