How water and the human factor influence restroom design

Reclaimed-water flushometers are made to withstand the harsh chemicals present in reclaimed water.

Widening the focus
However, even these advances concentrate on the products’ water and energy consumption. Modern ideas are looking toward the bigger picture. This evolution opens the door to infinite opportunities that recognize the entire life cycle of an individual product, from harvesting those metals from the earth to manufacturing, operation, and end of life.

The Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) and Health Product Declaration (HPD) are new standards shifting and broadening focus from how low a company’s fittings flow can be to how each production detail can have an impact on both human beings and the environment. EPDs and HPDs are taking green construction to another level, offering more product transparency as demanded by an increasing number of architects, designers, engineers, and building owners.

An EPD follows ISO 14025, Environmental Labels and Declarations−Type III Environmental Declarations: Principles and Procedures; it discloses the life-cycle environmental performance of a particular product. Also known as a Type III environmental declaration, an EPD is based on a life-cycle assessment (LCA) and contains a summary of key LCA results like carbon footprint, acidification, depletion of fossil fuel, and other resources. Developed by the Health Product Declaration Collaborative, an HPD is a standardized disclosure document identifying potential chemicals of concern and health concerns in a building product.

Until recently, the focus has been on making high-performance buildings consume less energy and water while also generating less waste, but the industry is now looking at how the building can affect human health, too. This monumental shift in thinking is deeply influencing the products specified by architects, designers, and engineers as they continually try to push the envelope. The result is a new generation of standards influencing future restroom designs.

Organizations such as the International Living Future Institute have developed another resource for designers to make informed product decisions. DECLARE is a transparency platform and product database allowing manufacturers to publicly ‘declare’ the life-cycle sustainability of their products or projects based on the inclusion of environment- and occupant-friendly materials and chemicals.

Another driving force behind DECLARE, EPDs, and HPDs are green-building frameworks like USGBC’s LEED v4 and the International Living Future’s Living Building Challenge (LBC). Certified products are eligible for helping a project earn credits in the LEED v4 Materials and Resources (MR) category, while DECLARE-labeled products are required for LBC projects. Both LEED v4 and LBC promote a more comprehensive approach to water conservation through less toxic products fabricated through a more efficient, less carbon-intensive manufacturing process. More architects and designers seeking the next high-profile project are insisting on certifications that take a whole-building approach to sustainability.

Water’s footprint
When exploring the life cycle of restroom products, it is important to look beyond tangible materials. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a common, yet oft-overlooked, byproduct of many manufacturing processes.

“In the United States, buildings account for nearly 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions—more than the transportation or industrial sectors—and commercial and residential buildings comprise more than 70 percent of electricity use,” wrote Brandon Tinianov, PhD, PE, LEED AP, in a 2016 web article for The Construction Specifier. (To read the article, “Reaching Ambitious Energy Requirements in Commercial Building,” visit

Recent years have seen a greater emphasis on the carbon footprint of water, concerning the impact of potable water processing on our environment. While the majority of people may not yet associate potable water with carbon emissions, water treatment/distribution is an energy-intensive process that deserves critical attention.

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  1. The most significant development for toilets in the past 14 years has been the introduction of MaP (Maximum Performance) Testing, a testing protocol and program that tests toilets to “failure”. MaP stimulated the plumbing industry to competitively develop new high-performing product that outperforms the high water use fixtures of the 1980s and 90s. Beginning in 2006, the MaP protocol was incorporated into the WaterSense specifications for BOTH tank-type and flushometer valve toilets. MaP now lists all WaterSense-certified toilets on its website, for free download.

    Go to the website to learn about the flush performance of over 2,900 different WaterSense tank-type toilet models from over 100 different brands! Download WaterSense flushometer toilet performance data as well at the same site. All of these models were INDEPENDENTLY TESTED by laboratories NOT connected to any manufacturer. Click on ‘MaP Search’ to use the free search tool OR download complete product listings.

    MaP development was sponsored by PUBLIC WATER UTILITIES IN THE U.S. AND CANADA in 2003 to give consumers a means to compare actual flush performance among all the many toilet models available in the marketplace. All of this is FREE. MaP does NOT SELL TOILETS…it merely has them tested and reports the results to the public free-of-charge.

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