Managers of high-rise facilities who want to lower operating costs don’t need to look any further: Restrooms offer an easy but significant opportunity to drastically reduce expenses.

With hundreds of visitors and employees in a typical high-rise facility on a daily basis, a large number of restrooms are necessary – sometimes several on each floor. With that many restrooms to manage, it’s easy to see how quickly the cost of maintaining them can add up.

To ensure that restrooms are fully stocked and free of debris, facility maintenance teams often follow a checklist of tasks that should be completed during restroom cleaning, including frequently restocking dispensers with paper towels, toilet paper, soap, air fresheners, etc., as well as managing waste from these systems.

A simple way to reduce operating expenses in high-rise restrooms is to eliminate paper towels, which reduces labor and other costs associated with them. Paper towels cost money to order, ship, store, and collect, plus the added expense of removing the waste they generate. By eliminating paper towels and installing high-speed, energy-efficient hand dryers, for example, high-rise facilities can drastically reduce overall costs.

Buildings (including high-rise facilities) are responsible for at least 40 percent of the energy used in most countries, according to Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) research conducted by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. This research found that there is a misconception about sustainable solutions. People believe that they’re expensive when, in fact, they can save money.

It’s hard not to focus on the costs of initial purchase prices, but there should also be a large focus on return on investment. High-rise facilities could spend over $100,000 per year just on paper towels, but the energy costs of using a high-speed, energy-efficient hand dryer can amount to only pennies per day. Plus, simply switching from paper towels to hand dryers could result in a 95-percent cost savings – not to mention a reduction of nearly 32,000 pounds of paper towel waste annually.

Restroom users in large office buildings – like high-rise facilities – wash and dry their hands roughly 2.5 million times per year, using more than 5 million paper towels.

Cost and Energy Savings
High-speed, energy-efficient hand dryers are a far more economical method for drying hands than paper towels or conventional hand dryers. Environmental Building News researchers independently tested a variety of hand dryers and paper towels to compare energy savings and costs.

Where paper towels require up to 743 kilojoules per use (the amount of energy used to make two paper towels), a high-speed, energy-efficient hand dryer uses just 76 kilojoules per hand dry. The cost of paper towels (both virgin and recycled) is $23 per 1,000 hand dries, while the cost of drying the same number of hands with a high-speed, energy-efficient hand dryer is only 50 cents.

When comparing high-speed, energy-efficient hand dryers to conventional hand dryers, it was found that conventional hand dryers draw approximately 2,200 watts of electricity. More efficient hand dryers use 1,500 watts (one version even uses a few as 500 watts).

Green Practices and Standards
Installing high-speed, energy-efficient hand dryers not only represents cost and maintenance savings, but also significantly reduces the carbon footprint of a high-rise facility.

LEED Fellow Penny Bonda confirmed the cost and environmental savings offered by high-speed, energy-efficient hand dryers. Bonda, of Ecoimpact Consulting – a sustainable consulting service to the building industry – pioneered the development of many of the accepted practices and recognized standards that define the sustainability movement.

Conducting research about average-use costs evaluating paper towels and hand dryers, she uncovered that high-speed, energy-efficient hand dryers are the most sustainable hand-drying solution. According to data she used based on the LEED v4 water-use reduction calculation, restroom users in large office buildings – like high-rise facilities – wash and dry their hands roughly 2.5 million times per year, using more than 5 million paper towels.

Quantis, an international lifecycle assessment (LCA) research firm, conducted an LCA study to compare high-speed, energy-efficient hand dryers to conventional hand dryers and paper towels. The study found that certain high-speed, energy-efficient hand dryers reduce the carbon footprint of hand drying by 50 percent to75 percent when compared to conventional hand dryers, as well as to virgin and 100-percent recycled paper towels.

The LCA study provides facility managers with a scientific assessment of how various hand-drying options impact the environment and contribute to reducing carbon footprints.

William Gagnon

William Gagnon is vice president of marketing at Excel Dryer, Inc.