Let’s talk about a dirty problem – how much water your urinals are wasting.
These staples of men’s restrooms
use an average of 1 to 3 gallons to flush,
according to the EPA. Working a five-day
week and using the facilities three times a
day, a single employee could flush a urinal
780 times a year. Multiply that volume by
the number of male workers and you can
see why urinals should be the target of
your next project.
Retrofit your urinals with waterless
or high-efficiency models. You can go as
far as a full fixture replacement or simply
upgrade the values with flushometers.
Any option that puts your urinals at less
than 1 gallon per flush will yield immediate savings.
How Low Can You Go?
While the federal standard for new
urinals is 1.0 gallons per flush (gpf), some
legacy models that use 3-5 gallons might
remain in use, notes the EPA.
“Urinals are designed to last for long
Low-Flow Urinals Conserve Water
periods of time. Usually the only part that
breaks down is the flush valve, and this
can be fixed relatively easily,” notes Klaus
Reichardt, founder and managing part-
ner of the manufacturer Waterless Co.
“Because urinals can function for many
years and rarely go out of style, facilities
A number of high-efficiency urinals
have entered the market in recent years.
A 0.5 gpf model will cut your water use
Reduce your demand by hundreds of gallons
by 50% if you’re switching from a 1-gallon
version. For additional conservation, there
are 0.25 and 0.125 gpf versions, which use
a mere pint to flush. That’s a savings of
over 87% from one gallon or the difference between 780 gallons a year vs. 32. 5
Look for the WaterSense label, which
requires that a model use no more than
0.5 gpf – there are over 360 options to
choose from between fixtures, values,
If water savings aren’t enough to motivate you, state or city regulations may
require you to switch, says Tracy Quinn,
policy analyst and registered civilian engineer with the National Resources Defense
For example, Los Angeles has mandated that urinals consume no more than 0.5
gpf since 2010 and there’s a proposal for
New York City that stipulates that urinals
must use no more than 0.2 gallons. After
January 2016, urinals are required to flush
with one pint or less under Title 24 in
California. With the number of droughts
increases in the U.S., more municipalities
may codify water efficiency at the point
Eliminate Water Use Completely
If you want to jettison flushing altogether, switch to a waterless urinal. These
units have the same look and footprint
as a traditional model but do not use any
water, explains Reichardt.
“Prior to a retrofit project, it is impera-
tive that facilities ensure that the slope of
the drain line is ample, route drain lines
to avoid problems such as sediment build
up, and check that drain heights are ap-
propriate to the brand purchased,” notes
a 2008 report prepared for the Massa-
chusetts Executive Office of Energy and
Environmental Affairs by the consulting
firm Industrial Economics.
Maintenance isn’t significantly different but you will need to pay attention
to sealing liquids and cartridges, notes
Reichardt. He also recommends that you
ask these questions of your manufacturer
so you fully understand how to maintain
your waterless urinal:
■ What chemicals and cleaning tools are
■ How long do the trap and cylinder
last? How much do replacement parts
■ Does the urinal require a sealant to
help seal the trap and prevent sewer
odors? If so, what kind is recommended,
how much should be used, and what
does it cost?
Some models may need fresh water
poured down occasionally, Reichardt
adds. If this is the case with your unit,
make sure to verify how often this should
occur to maintain performance.
Measure for Success
Whichever urinal option you use to
reduce water consumption, it’s vital to
establish your usage levels prior to the
retrofit. This baseline allows you to verify
how much efficiency has improved after
switching to new gpf rate.
“You can use a whole building analysis
of water usage by examining your utility
bills for changes. A program like ENERGY
STAR’s Porfolio Manager also includes a
focus on water conservation,” notes Quinn.
However, it can be hard to attribute
a usage decrease to an improvement if
there are concurrent changes in occupant
behavior or other conservation initiatives,
she cautions. While submeters and data
loggers have a higher initial cost, they can
empower you to go dive deeper into your
Jennie Morton jennie.morton@buildings.
com is senior editor of BUILDINGS.
URINALS CONSUME ONE
GALLON WHILE NEW
MODELS CAN USE ONLY
A PINT –
AN 87% SAVINGS.