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Building Manager Green Tip

October 2010

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This email kicks off the Green Building Tip of the Month series from the Office for Sustainability Green Building Services Team. The Green Building Tip will inform building managers and the Harvard community about "green" technologies, practices, materials and opportunities used in buildings owned by Harvard.

Sharing lessons learned on a University platform promotes efforts to sustainably design, build, renovate and operate Harvard buildings, which ultimately reduces operating costs and Greenhouse Gas Emissions, while increasing occupant health and comfort and building performance.

Conserve water and save money by installing waterless urinals


Installing or retrofitting urinals in your facility with waterless options can save water and money. Replacing conventional urinals and their flushometer valves with waterless alternatives could save as much as 3 gallons of water and 4 cents per use.  On average each male student or employee at Harvard will flush away $7.25 and 552 gallons of water each year. In a typical Harvard building, that adds up to lots of green unnecessarily flushed down the drain.  

Waterless + Touchless = Efficient + Healthy Choice

Properly installed and maintained waterless urinals create a cleaner and healthier environment by eliminating both the water that bacteria needs to grow and produce odors, and the flushometer valve handles that can directly transmit bacteria between users.

Consider the options


After deciding to go waterless, carefully consider which of the three drain trap technologies will work best for your installation. Care and maintenance varies significantly among existing trap technologies, and can greatly affect the success of waterless urinals.

1. Built-in Traps are fixture integrated and require flushing with large amounts of water periodically and adding liquid sealant every 2-4 weeks depending on care and usage. Maintenance personnel may require proper training for upkeep.
2. Replaceable Trap Cartridges are removable, disposable plastic cartridges that are regularly replaced by inserting a new trap into the fixture's drain opening in lieu of cleaning. Disposable traps are easy to maintain but carry recurring replacement expenses and produce landfill waste when disposing.
3. Self-sealing valve traps contain a specially designed flexible valve that closes tight to prevent sewer gas backup into the restroom. At the presence of liquid, the valve opens and permits the liquid to flow through. Self-cleaning valves can be removed if needed, but they are designed to remain in place and last for many years. The upfront costs are typically higher and self-sealing valves are less flexible when integrating with fixture manufacturers.

Waterless at Harvard

Experience and reception at Harvard has been mixed and is directly related to the selection of technology and the use. Several buildings around campus are using waterless urinals with the Sloan WES-150 replaceable cartridge, which uses a biodegradable liquid to prevent odors. These cartridges are designed to last at least 7,000 uses, and are recyclable at the end of their useful life.

Waterless urinals in high-use areas will require more frequent maintenance than those in low-use areas. Cartridges will need to be replaced more frequently, which results in a cost for both materials and labor.



OFS and FMO recommend placing signage next to waterless urinals, to educate the users and ensure that occupants and visitors do not pour anything down the urinals or use them as drains. Water, coffee, and other substances will ruin the cartridge and may cause clogs and unpleasant odors. Upon request, OFS can provide this signage.
It is advisable to ensure that custodial staff members are trained in how to clean the waterless urinals and replace and maintain the trap cartridges.

Green Building Services provides consulting services to ensure that the design, construction and operation of Harvard's built environment has minimal environmental and human health impacts, maximizes occupant comfort and generates an awareness of sustainable design and building operations. To learn more about our work and services, visit http://green.harvard.edu/gbs.