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Urinals Reimagined

Taking cues from nature, TOTO’s engineers design the world’s best extra-hygienic, eco-friendly urinals to enhance the quality of public restrooms while protecting the planet

Problem

Anyone who runs a service business knows that first impressions mean everything. The public spacesin settings like restaurnats, hotels, and airports present customers with a clear sense of the ethos that drives the business. This is especially true in public restrooms, particularly men’s restrooms, where dysfunctional or badly maintained urinals can assault the senses with foul odors and unpleasant sights—and subsequently sour the prospects for new business. “If a customer experiences restroom fixtures in a restaurant that leave behind an undesirable odor or residue that is not aesthetically pleasing, then there’s a good chance he’ll also think the rest of the place is terrible, too.” says William Strang, chairman of TOTO Mexico and president of operations in the Americas for TOTO USA.

Yet, with advocacy groups and increasing legislation prompting stricter water conservation measures, business owners and operators are often at the mercy of the limitations of available plumbing fixtures that meet these demands. These include the newer waterless or lower-water consuming “pint” urinals developed to replace the water-wasting one-gallon urinals of the past. While the intentions of such products are good—all aim to protect the planet by reducing water consumption—all too often their water-conserving benefits are cancelled out by offensive smells and unsightly remains of waste that fails to go down the drain with insufficient water to rinse the bowl. Maintenance issues with these types of urinals also increase, requiring extra manpower and more chemicals to keep up with the resulting mess.

innovation

Recognizing the need to both improve the quality of life for business owners and their customers and create a pioneering product that respects the planet, TOTO’s engineering and design team rose to the challenge of making the world’s best human- and planet-friendly urinal. A team that included engineers from TOTO’s R&D labs in both Japan and Morrow, Georgia, began by studying the physics of the flush of both waterless and low-water-consuming urinals. Their first step was to create models of clear resin urinals with advanced 3D printing techniques. Then they relied on high-speed videotapes to observe the flow of water and colored liquid through the fixtures to determine how to craft a better performing urinal. “We experimented for three months to analyze the performance of the models,” says Depash Patel, TOTO’s assistant director of design at its Lakewood, Georgia, facility.

With particular emphasis on water conservation during the course of their research, the team studied both waterless versions of urinals as well as 1/2-gallon and 1/8-gallon water-conserving models. With too much crystalline urine residue remaining in the waterless version to meet its standards of performance, they turned their attention to the water-conserving models and noticed a dramatic difference in function between the 1/8- and 1/2-gallon versions. “In order to create a viable 1/8-gallon urinal, we realized we would need to maximize the use of the trapway to be sure the water exited the bowl completely without any backflow or eddies.” explains Patel.

A eureka moment came when Strang saw the parallel between the flow of liquid in the model urinal and the oxbow effect that takes place in nature as water naturally flows through a meandering river basin on alluvial plains. “As we reviewed the videotaped movement of the water, we could see that the trap wasn’t fully eliminating the colored liquid, and I noticed by serendipity that the turbulence and viscous shear produced in our models was similar to the oxbow effect of a meandering river, which leaves a deposition on the inside of a curve and creates erosion on the outside, which affects the flow of water.” Strang explains. “Using bio-mimicry to enhance our understanding of how water works, we were able to put our observations into action in products that enhance the experience for people and at the same time conserve the water of the planet.”

Solution

Once the team discovered how they could solve the problem, they created various prototypes to improve performance by redesigning the U-shaped P-trap, which manages the sewer gas that causes odor, into a V-shape. This change produced a water-conserving 1/8-gallon High Efficiency Urinal that enhanced the flow of water to more effectively control smells. To improve performance further, they incorporated an EcoPower® flushometer valve, which puts water to work by supplying the very energy consumed to operate the flush valves. With this technology, the flowing water spins a high-efficiency turbine to create and store power. With each turn of the turbine, the internal capacitors are powered and recharged and power the sensor and solenoid valve, which are backed up by a battery. This means that with as few as 10 uses a day, battery will seldom be used and can last up to 19 years. It also means that the high-efficiency urinals not only conserve water, they also protect the planet by using less energy and improve the quality of life for business owners and operators by easing maintenance and lowering operating costs.

After testing the prototypes in various applications to verify their superior performance, the company launched two variations of an 1/8-gallon urinal—the UT105U the larger UT445U. Designed to meet the both IAPMO certification and the EPA’s WaterSense standards, both fixtures promise to make life a little sweeter in public men’s rooms across the country and around the globe.

Benefits for PeoplePlanetWater

Launched in 2011, each of TOTO’s new low-water-consuming urinals enhances life by offering several benefits to both people and the planet. Here’s a list of a few of them:

People

Better hygiene. By rinsing and draining completely thanks to a redesigned P-trap, the new urinals eliminate odors and unsightly backflow, keeping the atmosphere fresh and clean.

Easy maintenance. Because no crystalline urine residue is left behind, the fixtures are easier to clean. In addition, the EcoPower valves eliminate the costs of installing power supplies and wiring as well as maintenance costs for battery replacement.

Planet

Reduced energy usage. The EcoPower valve regenerates its own energy with each flush. The hydro-powered turbine in the EcoPower valve charges the power supply during usage and provides maximum performance in even the most demanding, high-traffic commercial spaces, while minimizing impact on the planet.

Water

Improved water conservation. Using only 1/8 of a gallon of water to rinse the bowl, the urinals are 8 times more efficient in their use of water than old-fashioned urinals. And the UT445U High Efficiency Washout Urinal conserves up to 75 percent more water than a 0.5GPF urinal.

Save 87% of water per flush over the 1 Gallon Urinal. On average, a urinal gets flushed about 20 times a day; therefore a business will save 4,000+ gallons per year for every WaterSense labeled urinal it installs.