Bullitt Center

Bullitt Center offers a unique example of a waterless alternative in bathrooms.

Illustrating how engineering and design creativity can patch together effective synergistic systems and technologies, Bullitt Foundation opted for a waterless approach—but with flushable urinals. Leveraging the high-tech ventilation mechanisms installed for Bullitt Center’s rare composting toilet network, the design team went with modified traditional flushing urinals rather than investing in another complicated system.

As Bullitt Center spokesman Brad Kahn explained, the exhaust system constantly draws air from toilet and urinal drains into composting machines in the building’s basement— and eventually through the heat-recovery ventilator. Hence, rather than sourcing a system requiring traps and sealants to keep odors from restrooms, the Bullitt Center team opted for standard Kohler urinals—but with flush handles removed.

“The day porter just adds a bit of water down the bowl to rinse it as needed,” Kahn related. In fact, the developer did not extend water pipes to the urinals in the six-story Bullitt Center—nor is the building even hooked up to the local sewer system. The urine (along with low-flow toilet flush fluid) gets siphoned from composters into leachate tanks for eventual tank-trucking of the nitrogen-rich fluid to King County’s nearby composting facility.

In certain jurisdictions, developers such as Bullitt that opt for waterless systems can save on first-cost plumbing expenditures because they don’t need to pipe water to urinals, noted Alex Herceg, the analyst heading Lux Research’s Efficient Building Systems practice. However, in the huge California marketplace and elsewhere, water lines still must be extended to walls behind each unit (thanks in part to heavy plumber lobbying)—eliminating that potential waterless cost advantage.

And as might be expected with new technologies, some developers tapping waterless urinals have gone ahead and plumbed the fixtures to the walls to allow for easy replacement with flush units if unexpected issues arise, Herceg noted.

For more on the benefits and options for waterless urinal installation, see “Water Free” in the December 2013 issue of CPE.