Green Space, Green Products: The Metropolitan Park District of Tacoma, WA upgrades its facilities
Environmental concerns, not surprisingly, are crucial to national park organizations. The Metropolitan Park District of Tacoma, Washington is no exception. This 100-year-old park district features over 60 parks, everything from large spaces with golf courses, hiking paths and waterfronts to smaller “postage stamp” parks with playgrounds and other activities for families. The broad range of landscapes represented within the district need to be hospitable to the thousands of visitors who visit every month – even if they come for the green space and natural settings, they still need easy access to facilities such as restrooms.
Providing the facilities and resources needed to keep costs down and maintain good environmental standards – all while keeping guests happy – has proven to be a significant challenge for Jerry Anderson, the park district electrician. One issue he faced was the tremendous amount of paper towels consumed at the various parks. “Some of the parks have one large restroom, and others have many small ones,” says Anderson. “The expense – and waste – of using so much paper was a significant concern.” Anderson works closely with the parks’ Green Team, a team of managers and field workers who are responsible for evaluating the processes – and products – used to maintain the park facilities. “We determine which products are longest-lasting and most environmentally friendly,” says Anderson. “We always try to purchase LEED-credited products whenever possible.”
In an attempt to cut paper-related costs and waste, Anderson installed a number of different hand dryers in restrooms throughout the park district, but found he had to replace them frequently. “We went through a lot of poorly-constructed dryers, especially in the heavy-use buildings where events such as weddings are regularly held,” he explains. “We got to the point where we were changing out units every three years. We also had some issues with vandalism and theft. We needed a fixture that would hold up to a lot of use and abuse.”
In 2003, during his search for an appropriate solution, Anderson tested and installed many different hand dryers before receiving a free trial of the XLERATOR® Hand Dryer. The XLERATOR model is known for its high-velocity air stream and fast results (between 10 and 15 seconds to completely dry hands) along with its green designations including qualifying for LEED Credits due to its high energy efficiency. Pleased with the dryer’s function, he gradually added more XLERATOR dryers to the parks’ restrooms totaling more than 20 units. Anderson recently received approval from the Green Team to replace the older hand dryers with XLERATORs, and expects the trend to continue as the restroom facilities throughout the park system receive a facelift in the upcoming years.
The XLERATOR’s quick drying and no-touch activation were strong selling points for Anderson, who was also impressed by the feedback he received from visitors to the park. “People were really excited by this unit,” he says. “They were so accustomed to the slower ones. You wouldn’t expect a hand dryer to be so memorable, but this one really is – I’ve heard nothing but requests for more. Good thing it’s proven itself to be the most reliable hand dryer we’ve had at the parks!”
Anderson liked that the XLERATOR was easy to retrofit into the facilities and said, from an installer’s point of view, the XLERATOR far exceeds its competition. “Everything is laid out so nicely, and the components are simple to figure out,” he says. “You don’t have to go under or around the motor, and the back of the unit is made of a special fire retardant polycarbonate that easily accommodates wiring. I especially like that everything is form-fitted: the cover pops right into place, and you don’t have to wrestle with it.”
Anderson also noted the dryer lacks dangerous, sharp edges, and also provides nothing for vandals or thieves to grab onto. “I don’t know why anyone would steal a hand dryer, especially one that doesn’t even dry your hands, but we’ve had them stolen before. That hasn’t happened with the XLERATOR. It offers really good customer control.”
In addition to the XLERATOR Hand Dryer, Anderson noted that automatic toilets and sinks help maintain hygiene and conserve water within the parks’ many restrooms. “Going hands-free was a major goal of ours,” he says. “The fewer surfaces you have to touch in a public restroom, the better. And these fixtures cut back significantly on water waste.” Anderson plans to continue to incorporate sensor-activated fixtures in the upgraded restrooms, and encourages other city organizations to do the same. “It’s just makes good environmental, as well as fiscal, sense.”
According to an independent study, XLERATOR works three times faster and uses 80% less energy than traditional hand dryers, and delivers a 95% cost savings when compared to paper towels. For more information about XLERATOR, visit the company’s Web site at www.exceldryer.com.
For more information about the Metropolitan Parks District of Tacoma, visit www.metroparkstacoma.org.