This winter, the University Union restrooms received a much-needed facelift that resulted in improved aesthetics and increased energy efficiency. The restrooms now use approximately 80% less lighting energy than before the renovation.
All six of the Union restrooms were renovated this January and February as a result of a scheduled building update. The restrooms—some of the busiest on campus—hadn’t been renovated in more than a decade, and the countertops, ceilings, and fixtures were showing signs of wear. Project Manager Jonathan Lindhorst was assigned to oversee the project and bring the restrooms up to current standards. He quickly realized that the project presented a great opportunity for energy reduction.
“I met with [Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Services] Joe Oster and took a look at some of the building systems to see what needed updating,” Jonathan said. “The original scope of the project didn’t call for lighting, but it was obvious to both of us that the lighting was in need of improvement. I immediately thought that this was a great opportunity for reducing energy.”
Jonathan approached Energy Manager Steve Kolb, who used industry lighting standards to develop photometric calculation drawings which laid out the appropriate lighting fixture type and placement for the restrooms. The new RT5 lights require fewer watts and contain less mercury while producing more output, resulting in a space that’s filled with white light as opposed to direct yellow light, which results in glare. Jonathan said the new lighting alone significantly changed the appearance of the restrooms.
“Lighting itself makes the single most important aesthetic difference in these spaces,” Jonathan said.
In addition to upgraded lighting, the restrooms now contain energy-efficient Dyson hand dryers, new silestone counter tops made from recycled materials, low-flow faucets, and dual-technology occupancy sensors that run off of noise, motion and heat. According to Steve, the best thing about these upgrades is that they improve the functionality for occupants.
“Many of these features are saving the university money, reducing our energy intake, and increasing the air quality, but even better is that they’re doing those things while improving convenience and aesthetics,” Steve said. “The Dyson hand dryers work much faster than older, less efficient models, and occupancy sensors are programmed in a way that when working properly, occupants will never see darkness – the minute their hand touches the bathroom door, the lights are already on.”
The project achieved an 80% reduction in lighting energy in each bathroom, resulting in financial savings of $3,600 a year. The lighting component of the project has a payback period of approximately two and a half years, and even better, Joe says he’s happy with the results.
“It was a nice upgrade to some of the most high-traffic restrooms on campus,” Joe said. “We did what we could within the budget and were able to clean them up and remove the eyesores. The lighting in particular is very nice.”