Sea-Tac's Green Restroom Experiment Yielding Encouraging Results

March 06--Faucets with wings, valves powered by solar energy from restroom lights and dual-flow toilets are part of two new experimental restrooms at Sea-Tac Airport designed to cut energy use, reduce errant restroom trash and improve hygiene in the airport's washrooms.

Initial results from the pilot project restroom features, installed in two restrooms near the airport's central court late last year, show significant positive results, say airport officials.

"Surveys and data collection following the completion of the green restroom enhancements show that the sustainable fixtures are a win-win with significant environmental benefits and increases user satisfaction," said Sea-Tac spokeswoman Christina Faine.

Based on initial results, the environmental savings over a year's time will amount to 1.5 million feet of paper and 644,000 gallons of water for those two restrooms alone, the airport said.

The restrooms incorporate three new kinds of eco-friendly fixtures.

The most visually striking is a combined faucet and hand dryer. The device, built by Dyson, the vacuum people, looks somewhat like a plane with a central fuselage and two wings extending from the side of the faucet.

The faucet delivers water for hand washing when it detects a person's hands under the tap much like a traditional touchless faucet. What's different about the new bathroom fixture is that the "wings" extending perpendicular from the faucet contain narrow slots on their undersides from which a high-speed "blade" of air emerges.

Restroom patrons use those blades of air to wipe the water from their hands into the sink below. The air isn't further heated as it is in conventional blow dryers.

Air Blade Faucet inventor James Dyson said having the dryer incorporated in the faucet allows users to dry their hands over the sink rather than having to move their wet and dripping hands across the restroom to a dryer.

Using a dryer at each sink, he said, speeds up restroom use because it eliminates congestion at the wall-mounted units. The air dryers also cut paper consumption and restroom clean up costs.

The airflow is created by a new, high-efficiency, low-noise motor mounted under the counter. The airflow is channeled through the faucet body to the two wing-like blades.

A second innovation in the two airport restrooms is the dual flush toilets. Restroom users are instructed to pull the flush lever upward to flush down liquids and to push the lever downward to flush solids. The liquids flush uses considerably less water than the larger flush used for solids.

The third kind of new fixtures are more conventional touchless faucets. Those faucets' sensors and valves are powered by electricity generated from solar collectors generated by the light from the restrooms' overhead lights. Using solar power eliminates the need to hard wire the faucets to the building's electrical system or to change batteries powering the sensors and valves.

Based on initial results, the airport says it likely will equip its other restrooms with the green fixtures when it comes time to remodel them.

"We take our role of being a leader among U.S. airports in sustainability seriously," said Elizabeth Leavitt, director of aviation planning and environmental management at the Port of Seattle, Sea-Tac's owner. "The green restroom enhancements are a good example of how we leave no stone unturned and continually look at old ways of doing things with fresh eyes."

Copyright 2014 - The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)