Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Going Flush Free When You Pee

Maybe it’s another “guy thing”, but I’ve been noticing urinals a lot lately. I’m not alone either. Both Paul Anater of Kitchen & Residential Design and Bob Borson at Life of an Architect have written about them, sometimes about their function and sometimes about their form.  Odd stuff?  Perhaps.  But design is design and one cannot pick what one finds inspirational.

For me, it’s all about the form. Even before I started blogging I’d find some sort of pleasing aesthetic in some of the urinals I saw, and try to find ways to photograph them without being thought of as some kind of weirdo. My kids must have thought I had some sort of bladder infection for the number of times I would return to a washroom, attempting to have some “alone” time to properly photograph the porcelain.

During a visit to the Red Rock Canyon in Nevada last month, I came across a urinal in the washroom at the interpretive centre I’d never seen before. I’d initially noticed its shape, but soon realized the only plumbing attached to the fixture was a drain; there was no water supply to flush the waste.

Waterless urinal from Zurn
My initial reaction was: EWWWWWWW! But being the diligent blogger I am I did a little digging and discovered waterless urinals are not a new thing. After all in a world where water conservation is essential, the next logical step after a low-flow urinal is a NO-flow urinal.

What makes this system work is an environmentally friendly sealant that is applied to the vitreous china fixture. The sealant disinfects and protects and maintains an odour-free (I can verify this!) urinal.  I'll admit my initial apprehension towards this system is still there, even if in a diminished capacity. But in an environment where water is scarce, it is a perfect solution.


  1. Right there with you, Arne- Next house I build will have them.

    I think at some point we've all written about urinals... are we just trying to convince ourselves that it's ok to use them in residential applications?

  2. I'm still not convinced I want urinals in my house. Perhaps if it was a really BIG house with a pool, and I had space for a Men's and a Woman's change room. Otherwise, I'd have a bidet before I'd have a urinal.

  3. Oh I can just imagine the sight of you photographing urinals. My husband would die of embarrassment! A few years back I saw in This Old House a southern post office converted to a home. It was lovely and the bathrooms were mostly in tact. Urinals included!

  4. Brandon @ dcoopsdJune 4, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    Hey Arne!
    I finally get to comment on one of your posts. Something I actually know something about!

    So aside from your weird fetish of photographing urinals (though I have a weird one for trying to determine whether or not they're ADA compliant...) I will say this about waterless urinals...
    In the comm world, with the major presence of LEED (and here in California with out huge water restrictions) waterless urinals area really making a run for the money so to speak. The problem is that there are several types of waterless urinals, the most problematic being the cartridge based urinals. Why are they a problem? Well remember what is flowing through the cartridge and that someone has to replace it. The end result cartridge is not exactly the freshest piece of the bunch and ends up being a mini-bio-hazard. Anyway, long story short.... one can not just take the urinal they see on the shelf without doing just a little homework to make sure they're not offsetting one problem with another. Water use or bio mess? Hmmm....


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