Green Building Law Blog
Stinky Situations--The Corrosive Case Of Waterless Urinals
I have previously posted about the hazards of ossified building codes when confronted with new green technologies. Waterless urinals appear to showcase this issue dramatically. Last week, Chicago's city government announced that it was ripping out the waterless urinals installed in City Hall.
The problem is that Chicago's building code requires commercial buildings to use copper pipes in indoor plumbing. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers specifically states that drainpipes for waterless urinals "cannot be made of copper pipe, which corrodes."
This has led to a stinky situation--"with the corrosion causing urine to build up in the wall behind the men's room."
Building codes are not the only issue which has plagued waterless urinal installation. According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, in Philadelphia's Comcast Center,
Philadelphia's Plumbers Union Local 690 did not want to install the waterless urinals because it would have required the laborers to do less work, according to published reports. As part of the compromise, the two sides have proposed that Liberty and city officials monitor performance of the urinals.
The compromise that was reached was that the Union installed piping in the walls that would allow for conversion to flush urinals if there are problems with the waterless ones.
When new technology meets old infrastructure--be it copper piping or entrenched union interests--the results can be...stinky. In addition to the stench, who pays for removing the urinals and converting to ordinary fixtures? What happens if removing the waterless fixtures makes a building lose its LEED status? Who is at fault for causing the waterless fixtures to fail? The installers? The architect? The owner/user?