The design and specification of washrooms in public buildings need to consider the long-term operational performance of the whole building, its sustainability credentials, lifetime costs and customer approval ratings, amongst other things, says Peter Jackson, Business Development Manager for low-energy hand dryer manufacturer Diamond Dryers.
Arriving at a specification that meets these numerous, often contradictory goals, however, is being made easier with the latest generation of hand dryer technology as the team behind the UK’s largest airport development project has discovered.
The phased transformation programme of Manchester Airport has commenced with the newly-expanded Terminal 2, which has more than doubled in size to become the airport’s main terminal building. Many further improvements across the airport will follow to deliver a facility capable of handling 55 million passengers a year, including upgrades to Terminal 3 to cater for increased demand and flight schedules.
Washroom facilities are a key touchpoint for the public. An individual’s experience of using washroom facilities, and what they take away from its appearance, cleanliness and upkeep, ease of use and functionality, is significant in forming their opinion of the whole building and the organisation behind it. Hence why good or bad washroom experiences can boost or harm an organisation’s reputation.
For the team responsible for delivery of the £1bn Manchester Airport Transformation Programme, the washroom strategy was, therefore, a very important consideration, especially given its strong reputation on the global stage, world-leading sustainability performance and the high volumes of passengers it handles at peak times. Any solutions for its 100+ washrooms across its three terminals had to tick all the boxes in a complex matrix of requirements, which the range of compact, low-energy Diamond Dryers has done.
Sustainability – both energy and waste
One of the most important factors in Manchester Airport Group’s (MAG’s) decision-making was how any solution would support its broader sustainability objectives to continuously minimise its carbon footprint and maintain the carbon-neutral status it has held since 2016. A combination of factors were significant here, most notably how much electricity the hand dryers would use in operation and how they would compare to alternatives like paper towel dispensers or pull-down towels.
The latest generation of hand dryer technology, as utilised by Diamond Dryers, uses a powerful brushless motor, ensuring that electricity consumption is minimised thanks to a low 300W rating, to save 90% compared to conventional hot-air dryers.
But this is not just about energy consumption. The collection and disposal of waste matter hugely too. Here, using hand dryers instead of paper towels immediately helps by reducing waste generation by users, its collection and removal – all of which has a carbon saving to deliver environmental and cost-saving benefits.
Reliability, maintenance and longevity
No busy public building can afford for hand dryers to frequently be out of order or for the repairs process to be long-winded and complicated. If a hand dryer is out of action, queueing to use hand dryers in washrooms during busy times can result. And if this extends over days or even weeks, while waiting for replacement parts or a service engineer to attend, that will affect large numbers of customers. Plus, in the case of Manchester Airport, passengers being held up in washrooms could cause delays to boarding and flight departure delays.
Using hand dryers with a simple design thanks to a limited number of components, therefore, helps in this respect. The Diamond Dryer units which are being installed at Manchester Airport, have only three replaceable parts which on-site engineers hold in stock and can be installed by them easily in minutes to minimise downtime. The brushless motor technology that the dryers use is also super-reliable, and the units are backed with a seven-year warranty to offer long-term peace of mind.
Cleaning and housekeeping
How much attention does the hand dryer need during routine cleaning and will cleaning operatives find this process simple? Dryer designs which require little or no cleaning help to avoid communication breakdowns between cleaning operatives and shift teams. This is a particular problem with larger cleaning teams, so keeping it simple will reduce the risks. Having a dryer design like the Diamond Dryer, which needs nothing other than a simple surface clean, helps hugely in this respect.
Speed of hand drying
In busy public buildings with significant peaks in traffic, washrooms must be able to cope with a sudden influx of people without queues and congestion forming. Airports face exactly this challenge, which is why a fast-drying solution makes a major difference to foot traffic flow and throughput. The Diamond Dryers specified by MAG meet this challenge, taking just 10 seconds to complete the hand drying cycle.
Aesthetics and context
The overall visual appearance of each washroom is a vitally important issue too. Yes, the washroom must be clean to make the right impression, but the way it is equipped and finished has to reflect the rest of the building. Ugly or badly coordinated hand dryers can be detrimental to a washroom’s overall look, but also consider how the unit will look in smaller washrooms. The newest generation of dryers need not be bulky, packing a punch without being cumbersome.
This was a major factor for MAG. The sleek, contemporary design of the new Terminal 2 applies to every aspect of the building, and similarly high-quality refurbishment programmes to Terminals 1 and 3, ensure that passenger expectations are exceeded. Choosing the compact Diamond Dryer units in colours and finishes to match the decor provides an obvious sense of integration and cleanliness which reflects positively on the whole airport complex.
Meeting the needs of the visually impaired
Aligned to aesthetics, it is important that hand dryers do not blend so seamlessly that they are difficult to find for the visually impaired. Manchester Airport’s specification, therefore, includes hand dryers that are finished in a contrasting colour to the wall on which they are mounted, making them easy to distinguish.
In considering all these factors as part of its washrooms strategy, MAG has been able to arrive at a specification that will deliver the best solution for the long-term. The process they have adopted here shows the potential for any other public building operator to benefit from advances in hand dryer technology and work towards a more sustainable future.