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Cindy Pollock Shea, known by some as an “environmental guru” at the University of North Carolina — Chapel Hill, is a soft-spoken, well-informed advocate for “green” buildings. As the university undergoes its most significant construction boom since World War II — adding nearly 6 million square feet of building space to the existing 14 million — Shea has been promoting and coordinating the campus' ecological, environmental and economic goals.
In selecting safer alternatives to feature at the “new” college, Shea has chosen to install urinals that don't use water. The university is not alone in choosing no-water urinals:
Colorado State University, Fort Collins, is testing this type of urinal for use in locker rooms and residence halls.
Stanford University's Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve Field Station, Stanford, Calif., considered one of the school's most environmentally responsible renovation projects, has installed no-water urinals.
Palm Beach County (Fla.) Schools has purchased more than 200 no-water urinals for its schools.
The Carlsbad (Calif.) Unified School District has been using no-water urinals in its schools since the mid-1990s.
Harvard University and Yale University also have installed no-water urinals in some buildings.
Why no water?
Many facilities are considering no-water urinals because they are regarded as an effective way to conserve water. Because water must be pumped by electricity, some estimate that as much as $300 per year per urinal can be saved in utility costs. The installation of no-water urinals can help buildings achieve credits toward Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
Before 1990, the average urinal in the United States used as much as 4 gallons of water per flush. Today, because of legislation and conservation, conventional urinals use about 1 to 1Ω gallons of water when flushed. This still is a significant amount of water — as much as 40,000 gallons of water per year per urinal. That's enough to fill a large swimming pool. Excessive use of water can be troublesome in drought-prone areas, such as California and other western states.
The average office building in the United States uses 14,695 gallons of water per day, according to the Southwest Florida Water Management District. No-water urinals have the potential to reduce this usage significantly and relieve the water supplies in these locations.
Installing no-water urinals is not complicated. “The initial installation is easy and relatively inexpensive because you need only a drain line instead of both a water and a drain line,” says David Rose, an architect in Troy, Mich. “You also don't have to contend with additional plumbing, flush valves, sensors and the like, which can be costly maintenance headaches.”
Some school districts have found less vandalism and restroom property damage because there are fewer parts for students to tamper with. (See sidebar, right)