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    Waterless urinals making a splash downunder

    Lucy Marrett

    Waterless urinals will save your client water and money, particularly on new builds, and can help achieve a higher level of sustainability for your building.

    They’re a simple contraption and aren’t new to Australia, but they are seeing increased specification of late thanks to a bigger market supply of improved products and a growing awareness of their benefits.

    HOW THEY WORK

    The bowl of a waterless urinal is shaped to encourage urine to flow through a grate and into a trap without pooling. Depending on the product (more on that later), the urine will pass through a cartridge filled with barrier liquid or a one-way valve to stop odour from passing back up into the bathroom space.

    WHY INSTALL

    desert.jpgEnvironmental performance, cost benefits and ease of maintenance are the three major reasons waterless urinals are rising to the top. They’re competitive on purchase price with other traditional flushing systems but will save you significant money once operating. They’re easy to clean and will incur virtually no ongoing costs once installed.

    If a 2015 case-study by Uridan Australia is anything to go by, the money you’ll save by installing a waterless urinal and reducing your water usage is significant.

    The study compared the installation and maintenance costs of 14 Uridan waterless urinals in Sydney’s World Tower to the cost of the building’s previous flushing urinals over a four-month period. Uridan reports that water usage dropped by 14 per cent and by 87,000 litres per week after installing the waterless urinals, amounting to a cost saving $15,246 per annum.

    These findings match similar estimates from the Green Building Council Australia which says you’re likely to save $2,000 per year if you were to convert a three-stall automatically flushing urinal into a waterless equivalent.

    What considerations need to be taken?

    There are various factors that should be considered before specifying waterless urinals to ensure they suit the needs and budget of the project. If it’s a retrofit project, existing plumbing will need to be drained and capped and could need an upgrade. Waste pipes that run uphill, have multiple right-angled connections and inadequate rodding access are a problem and aren’t compatible with waterless systems. UK waterless urinal manufacturer, Gentworks estimates that around 10 per cent of bathrooms will need some remedial works prior to converting urinals to waterless use.

    Sufficient fall of pipes is needed to avoid pooling and odour and other water-using facilities should be situated upstream on the pipe trail from waterless urinals.

    KOHLERzaa85490_Steward-Urinal_Waterless.jpgThis highly functional Steward Medium Waterless Urinal by Kohler is a cartridge-free one-way valve design

    TYPES

    There are three main types of waterless urinals which have different installation and maintenance requirements, and different ways of masking or prohibiting excessive odour in a bathroom.

    Barrier Liquid Urinal– refillable cartridge

    A refillable Barrier Liquid cartridge or trap is situated at the bottom of the bowl and forms a barrier between the user and the plumbing. It works much like a standard plumbing ‘S’ trap in that the Barrier Liquid floats above the urine in cartridge and creates a seal that prevents sewer gas from passing from the drain pipes back into the occupied space of the building.

    The cartridges are easy to refill or replace but do require cleaners and maintenance staff to be trained on when to do so. Seals can also be lost if large volumes of water are flushed down the trap.

    Mechanical

    Mechanical units have one-way valves that enable urine to pass into the plumbing system, but prevent odours from coming back into the building. They are the newest type of waterless urinals and as such their durability is lesser known. Some manufacturers offer five year warranties on the seals if that is any indication of their life expectancy. The biggest advantage is that it won’t break down with large volumes of water being used by cleaners and it can handle most cleaning chemicals.

    Microbial blocks

    Microbial blocks can be used to convert flushing systems to waterless. A water-soluble block is placed in the urinal and is designed to break down on contact with urine to release odour-masking agents and bacteria that will break down the components of urine that cause scale and odour.

    A small amount of water is required each day to keep the bacteria activated but it means you can retrofit and existing urinal without plumbing works or new urinals. The existing ‘S’ trap is retained to create a barrier between user and the plumbing system and an extra level of odour protection.

    Various standards apply to installation of waterless urinals in Australia including Watermark certification, Australian Standard 3500.2:2003 for sanitary plumbing and drainage and Australian Technical Standard 5200.459:2004.

    MAKE SURE

    • Product is Watermark approved
    • Sewer pipes aren’t made from copper
    • There’s proper ventilation in bathroom
    • Sufficient fall of the sewer pipes to avoid pooling and odour
    • Physical barrier between the user and sewer pipes
    • Other water-using facilities are upstream of waterless urinals 

    5 BENEFITS

    1. Reduced expenditure
    2. Environmentally friendly
    3. Easy to maintain
    4. No flooding in bathrooms
    5. Reduced incidence of pipe blockages

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