When specifying plumbing products, seek a balance between cleanliness, design, and water conservation.
Ken Martin, Delta Faucet Co.
In any commercial building, promoting cleanliness and proper hygiene through effective handwashing is important. It is crucial in hospitals, extended-care facilities, and other healthcare buildings frequented by patients with compromised immune systems.
|In patient rooms, faucets and sinks should be specified to work together to allow proper hygiene. The faucet spout should have a higher, farther reach, placing the water stream in an easier-to-reach location for the users.|
This makes the job of specifying faucets and other plumbing products for public restrooms, patient rooms, and other areas an important one. Indeed, specifiers have much to consider when choosing faucets, fixtures, and other products for restrooms or patient rooms. The trend toward warmer, more inviting interiors has increased the demand for faucets with a more residential look, as opposed to an institutional or commercial design. In addition, water conservation has become increasingly important.
Even so, hygiene and proper handwashing devices are of paramount importance in healthcare-facility design and construction.
There are several things a specifier and a building owner should know to promote and maintain cleanliness. In addition to adopting vigorous cleaning schedules, one of the best ways to promote cleanliness is to reduce the need for people to touch surfaces. Automatic doors and light switches not only make life easier, but also limit the need to touch them, helping keep facilities cleaner.
In public restrooms used by visitors, staff, and patients, this may be accomplished by using products with hands-free technology. A variety of touchless flush valves, faucets, soap and towel dispensers, and hand driers has been on the market for some time. These products are quite effective at promoting cleanliness, as they greatly reduce the need for users to touch any surface in the restroom. However, hands-free technology has evolved over the years, resulting in products that work better and help promote proper hygiene.
The first hands-free faucets contained infrared, intensity-based sensing technology, which measured the intensity of light reflected from a user’s hands or body. A problem with this technology, when integrated within a hand-washing station, is that it tends to operate inconsistently. The sensor’s field of vision can be quite narrow, requiring users to move their hands around in an attempt to activate the faucet. Also, the sensors can sometimes be confused by the environment; a user’s light-colored clothing, for example, can cause the faucet to not work properly. Both of these factors can have the effect of discouraging proper hand washing.
Cleaning the faucet itself also can be an issue. Infrared faucets typically have seams and corners that are difficult to clean, particularly around the sensor window.
One solution to these problems is a new kind of hands-free technology that does not use infrared at all, but instead uses capacitance to detect a user’s presence and activate the faucet. Capacitance is the ability of a body to hold an electrical charge. Developed by Delta Faucet Co., Indianapolis, the Proximity sensing technology, in essence, turns the whole faucet into an ultra-sensitive antenna and creates a 3- to 4-inch field around the faucet. When a user’s hands enter the field, the faucet turns on and maintains a steady stream until the hands leave the field, or until a set amount of time expires.
The benefits of this technology are twofold. First, the faucets are easier to operate, thus promoting more effective hand-washing practices. Second, the faucet body has no seams or sensor windows, making cleaning easier and helping to minimize vandalism.
|Some faucets, such as a surgeon’s scrub-up faucet, do not have an outlet flow control, but instead have a non-aerated, laminar flow. This eliminates the column of standing water that remains in a faucet once it is turned off.|
For flush valves on toilets and urinals, infrared sensing technology had been the industry standard but is subject to the same problems that the faucets exhibited. To address this, Delta introduced H2Optics technology in 2009, which uses the principles of triangulation to calculate a user’s distance from the flush valve. (The same technology is used in the auto-focus feature of digital cameras.) This technology is more accurate than …View More