Public Restrooms are often the most important amenity in a park. Many people will avoid using a park or revisit it less often if restrooms are either unavailable or inadequate. Providing a restroom for your visitors is generally recommended if you can afford it.
Once the decision is made to acquire a restroom, the next step is to properly plan for it. Here are the factors that should be considered when creating your restroom plan:
The Importance of Location for a Park Restroom
Your restroom should be where the people are. Before choosing a location, it would serve you well to put thought into where people are entering, exiting, and congregating at your park. If you have a large park with multiple areas where people congregate, then you may wish to consider multiple smaller restrooms instead of one large restroom.
Utilities are also a major consideration. You’ll need to be aware of where your available sewer and water lines are as well as your electrical connection. If a strategically vital location does not have access to these, you’ll have to account for the cost of bringing utilities to the location. This can be very expensive and can easily blow up your budget. If this is a problem, you have two alternatives. One alternative is to choose a new location that is closer to your available utilities. If compromising on location is not an option, and if you can’t afford trenching utilities, then we recommend our utility free flush restrooms as your problem solver.
We recommend only using chemical toilets (porta-potties) as a temporary or situational measure, as they are vulnerable to vandalism and unpopular with the public. If your park has millions of dollars invested in amenities with the intent of impressing the public, then it becomes even more important to avoid chemical toilets.
Anticipating Crime and Vandalism
Nobody knows your park (and the surrounding area) like you do. Do you feel your park is at risk for vandalism? If so, do you anticipate light or heavy vandalism? An example of light vandalism would be superficial alterations such as graffiti. Heavy vandalism would include cases such as significant damages to fixtures and windows, or even arson.
Before we get into specific strategies for light versus heavy, let’s talk about a couple of universal truths for both forms of vandalism as well as crime.
The first is that any act of vandalism is illegal, and very few criminals would commit a crime if they felt there was a significant chance they could be caught in the act. Vandals will often put a good deal of thought into planning their escapades to minimize risk to themselves. The higher the degree of privacy in the restroom, the more enticed they will be to use that area for illegal activities.
The second is the level of seclusion around the restroom. Criminals will search for the softest target they can find, so in many cases all you need to do is assure you aren’t the easiest target. We recommend studying up on the principles of CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design). To summarize quickly, criminals like dark places that are hard to see from the street where the police do their patrols. The closer and more visible the area around the restroom is from the street, the better. Also make sure the area is well lit at night.
It may be that there is a conflict between strategically locating a restroom based on your budget and availability of utilities versus locating a restroom to minimize crime and vandalism. It’s ultimately a judgement call and one you’ll have to make based on your own assessment of your budget and the risk of crime in your area.
In regards to light versus heavy vandalism- structurally, most restrooms can handle light vandalism such as graffiti. If you feel your restroom is safe from marauding maniacs, then you should be fine with porcelain sinks and toilets, which is what most restrooms use and what the public generally prefers. However, if your area is very troubled and you’ve had issues with people breaking fixtures then we recommend stainless steel fixtures as they are far more difficult to damage. Keep in mind though these are significantly more expensive and are also less preferred by the public. If acts of heavy vandalism are rare enough, you might be better off going with porcelain anyway.
Choose an Appropriate Restroom for Your Park
Ideally, your restroom will be large enough for lines not to form during peak visitation periods. A restroom should maximize your park’s appeal, not be a source of discomfort or frustration for those stuck in long lines. Opting for a larger restroom or perhaps multiple restrooms will raise costs, but if you anticipate heavy usage periods it is an investment well made. You know your park (and budget constraints) best so be sure to size your restroom with care.
In the process of calculating park restroom usage, take care not to underestimate need based on the usage of waterless outhouses such as chemical and vault toilets. Many people, especially women, avoid using these restrooms completely but WILL use a traditional flush restroom. If you are upgrading to real restrooms, you should anticipate an increase in usage.
You should also consider the population growth of your area. A restroom building might last 50+ years. An adequately sized restroom now might be inadequate a decade later. If you are unsure, it might be wise to err on the side of having too much of a restroom than too little. Properly planning for visitation growth could save you money in the long run if it means your park doesn’t have to purchase an added restroom down the road.
Placing and sizing your restroom is a strategic decision and non-obvious factors may come into play. For example, if your restroom is located in a place where lots of people picnic, you can expect an uptick in use as people like to use the restroom before or after eating. If it’s near a playground or area with lots of children you can expect that the restroom will be used more often.
Lastly, it’s important to decide whether you want your restroom to be single occupant, gendered, or multi-stall. Multi-stall gendered restrooms are the norm. However, in some cases parks may opt for single occupancy restrooms if they are seeking a few specific advantages. Non-gendered single restrooms are better for potty parity (women’s restrooms tend to be more crowded). They are safer for trans users, and they are better for parents with toddlers and infants.
How to Prepare for Seasonal Use
If you live in a warm area without risk of prolonged freezing temperatures in the winter, you can skip ahead. If your park does have real winters, then there are some considerations to make.
If the temperature in a flush restroom is below freezing long enough, the water will freeze which will cause severe damage or at least make the fixtures inoperable. Heaters will keep the restroom from freezing in which case the building will need to be insulated enough to meet the local energy code. Codes are important to meet not only for legal reasons but because they make the building energy efficient saving money and helping the environment.
You may still decide to shut down restrooms in the winter if funding is an issue or if there’s such a lack of visitation that you feel it isn’t worth it. In this case you’ll need to winterize your building so that freezing temperatures won’t damage it.
Does Your Restroom Need to Fit a Certain Look for Your Park?
Some parks have a theme or motif. Restrooms can be made with a huge variety of outward appearances; getting one that matches your park’s theme shouldn’t be too difficult. Though depending on the look you want, the price could be higher. Ask yourself- in terms of dollars- how much is it worth it to you to have the restroom look a certain way? It’s good to think about this while still in the budgeting phase of restroom planning.
Remember to consider interior aesthetics. A nice interior enhances comfort which makes visitors feel more at home, more likely to stay longer and more likely to return. Sprucing up your restroom interior doesn’t have to be a lot of effort or expense either. If you’d like to learn more about restroom interiors, we covered some of the basics here.
Don’t Forget About Your Maintenance Crew!
Whenever planning a new restroom, it’s important to consult with your maintenance team to make sure everything is done to everyone’s satisfaction. Any restroom can be made to be low maintenance. Going over the restroom plans with your maintenance staff and listening to their input is a good way to maximize efficiency.
Of course, the happiness of your maintenance crew is not the sole consideration you must make. You also have to consider what makes visitors happy- as well as costs. How you triangulate these three factors is up to you- just remember to factor all three.
When planning costs for your restroom, we advise planning big to small.
Determining the number of restrooms and the size of those restrooms will have the biggest impact on your budget. For example, if you can’t afford two medium-size restrooms you could save money by getting one large restroom instead.
Location for your restroom is also a huge factor in your costs. Your most ideal restroom location might require extensive site work such as demolishing structures, reconstructing walkways, or trenching utilities. In some difficult cases, you might even have to burrow utility lines underneath streets or railroad tracks. It’s not uncommon at all for trenching to cost more than the restroom building itself. If this is a problem for your budget, we recommend our utility free restroom buildings or choosing a location with easy access to utilities.
Lastly, don’t forget to factor for winterization, vandal resistance, and especially aesthetics when planning your restroom budget.
There’s just something about a restroom that makes a park. A park without a restroom feels like a place to walk through, but not stay. Even small parks realize the importance of a restroom; we’ve installed restrooms on parks that are barely larger than a basketball court. And of course we’ve installed at much larger parks as well.
Whether your restroom quandary is easy or full of hurdles to navigate, our company was designed specifically for the purpose of installing restrooms for any place or situation. Whether you have budget constraints, struggle with providing utilities, or are looking for a restroom with a certain look, we can help you with just about anything. Every park has a specific situation they must cater to, and we can help fit that solution as neatly as possible.
If you are looking to add a restroom to your park and want to know more about our products, call Green Flush today for an estimate. We’re happy to help you find your way, whether you buy from us or not.