When selecting group showering products, Chris Tranter believes that the key considerations should be water efficiency and safety, alongside ease of installation, maintenance and use.
No matter where group showering facilities are installed (changing rooms in schools, football clubs and swimming pools are just a few examples of where they are commonly found), there are some key considerations to address.
Water efficiency has to be a top priority – especially in applications where showers are in frequent use. Schools in particular are large consumers of water. It’s thought that the average pupil uses around 4,000 litres of water every year, and it’s estimated that schools in the UK spend £70 million annually on the provision of water and water treatment. This equates to hefty annual water bills of thousands of pounds for average primary and secondary schools.
However, cleverly designed shower valves and showerheads can ensure users don’t waste unnecessary amounts of water. Timed flow showers, operated by pushing a button or via an automatic sensor, are a must in terms of water saving. They provide a set amount of water, and switch off after a specific time. This ensures showers aren’t left running – either accidently or deliberately – saving water and minimising the risk of flooding.
Many of the showers that are suitable for changing rooms are also supplied with flow regulators, providing flows of around four to six litres per minute. Some also include built-in eco features to save even more water.
Group showers are generally installed in public facilities, and the owners and managers of these buildings have a duty of care to ensure that hot water is delivered at a safe temperature. Scald injuries result in considerable pain, possible lifelong scarring and even death. Each year, scalding hot water causes around 570 serious burns and 20 deaths in the UK. In the main, these incidents involve baths but showering facilities pose a very real hazard too.
Third degree burns can occur in just five seconds, but skin varies greatly, and some people – including children, the elderly and people with disabilities – are potentially even more sensitive.
The risk of scalding can be significantly reduced by fitting a thermostatic mixing valve (TMV) – or a product with a TMV built into its design. With a TMV, hot water can be stored and distributed at a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria (60°C or above) but reduced to a safe temperature at the point of use by being mixed with the cold supply.
A TMV will maintain the preset, safe temperature even if the water pressure fluctuates (for example if a toilet is flushed or taps and other showers are used), and will completely shut down the outlet flow if the hot or cold water supply fails.
The type of TMV (2 or 3) and whether it is legally required, recommended or suggested best practice depends on the application. As an example, TMV3 approved valves, which are tested in line with NHS Model Engineering Specification D08, are required by legislation or authoritative guidance for basins, showers and baths in care homes for young people and NHS hospitals, and for showers and baths in schools (including nurseries). However, it is best practice to install a TMV in all cases unless a risk assessment has established that is absolutely safe not to do so.
It’s also important to select products that are easy for users to operate, especially if the facilities need to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act or Part M of the Building Regulations (Access to and Use of Buildings). Part M legislates that all non-domestic buildings should offer ‘reasonable access’, so that people with disabilities can use the facilities – including showers.
With this in mind, careful thought should always be given to whether the showers being fitted could be easily used by people of different abilities. In particular, it’s important to think about whether someone with reduced eyesight, grip, mobility or intellectual capacity would be able to access and use the showers easily.
Lever-operated showers, with sequential control for temperature and flow, can be easily operated, even with an elbow or fist. Other options include simple dial shower controls with a maximum temperature stop and push button controls.
And installers will, of course, be looking for products that are simple and easy to fit. One example is Bristan’s recently-launched slimline shower panel. Designed to offer a cost-effective, entry-level option for any group shower installation, the panel is easy to install and maintain thanks to the integral isolation valve and simple fixing mechanism, helping to reduce labour time and increase efficiency on busy commercial sites. It is suitable for plumbing systems with working pressures of one to five bar.
Group showers are in frequent use, and planned maintenance regimes are essential to manage the risk of bacteria such as legionella and pseudomonas colonising in the hot water system, as well as to ensure trouble-free operation and longer product life. It can pay dividends to choose products that are simple and easy to access and service; they save time, helping to minimise downtime and inconvenience. Vandal-resistant products can be a good option for high risk applications.
Group showering facilities are commonly seen in schools and sports facilities, and when selecting products it’s important to consider water efficiency and safety, and how easy products are to install, maintain and use. Bristan takes a partnership approach to specification, providing support throughout the whole process from initial design to post-installation.