November 2007

Volume 16, Number 11

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Innovation in Urinals from Caroma

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Caroma’s Cube3 Ultra Urinal uses just one pint per flush.

Photo: Caroma USA

If Australia’s history of drought has brought about anything positive, it has been innovation in water conservation. Caroma, an Australian company that introduced dual-flush toilets to the world in the early 1980s, has introduced two water-conserving urinals that are unique in the North American market.

The Cube3 Ultra urinal consumes just one-eighth of a gallon (0.5 liters) per flush. Its Smart Demand integrated logic system detects usage, rather than motion, to activate the flush. “This is the first liquid-sensing automatic flushing mechanism in a urinal,” according to Derek Kirkpatrick, manager of Caroma USA. The technology eliminates accidental flushing due to movement in front of the urinal. The liquid-detecting sensor is concealed in the drain of the urinal, reducing risk of damage during cleaning. In addition to the water-conserving flush mechanism, the Cube3 Ultra has a double-glazed vitreous china surface—standard on all Caroma urinals—that provides a high sheen, aids cleanability, and reduces staining.

Caroma introduced the Cube3 Ultra urinal in 2005 in Australia, where thousands have been installed, according to Kirkpatrick. The first North American installation was in early 2007 in the 16-story, LEED-registered Molasky Corporate Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, which has 29 of the urinals.

Doug Bennett, conservation manager at the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which is now housed in the Molasky Building, worked with the building developers to select the Cube3. According to Bennett, they had considered waterless urinals for the building but had concerns about long-term performance and maintenance with that approach. Bennett knew about the Cube3 and worked with the various parties to get the product specified. “So far, we’ve been very pleased with them.” He particularly likes the flush sensor in the urinal. “You don’t get ghost flush,” he told EBN. “Not only do we not have to worry about accidental flush, we don’t have to worry about people flushing before and during use,” he said. So far, he has heard no complaints from the custodial staff.

The Caroma Cube3 Ultra that is being marketed in North America is slightly different from the Cube model sold in Australia, with the North American product using less water per flush, according to Kirkpatrick (0.5 liters versus 0.8 liters for the Australian model). With its sophisticated circuitry and sensors, the Cube3 Ultra is expensive, with a list price of $799, although the cost may be lower with volume purchases. The Cube3 Ultra also requires a lithium battery that will need replacement annually with heavy usage, said Glenn Sheargold of Sustainable Solutions International, the western North American distributor of Caroma products.

In addition to its ultra-low-flush Cube3 Ultra, Caroma also has a waterless urinal: the H2Zero. Unlike the cartridge waterless urinals that rely on a trap filled with blue-dyed vegetable oil, the H2Zero has a unique one-way flexible diaphragm, dubbed the “Bio Seal valve.” Liquid flows through this diaphragm, which then closes, sealing the drainline to prevent sewer gases from entering the restroom. Sheargold told EBN that testing is currently being done to determine what the replacement frequency should be for the diaphragm. John McFadden of Caroma said the expected life is five to six months. The company supplies a tool to facilitate replacement. A deodorizing block on the inlet side dispenses a small amount of deodorizer and is replaced at the same time as the diaphragm.

The key advantage of its waterless technology, according to Sheargold, is that maintenance staff can periodically pour significant volumes of water through the diaphragm to flush uric salts from the urinal drain line without flushing the trap seal fluid. With the blue-seal urinals, says Sheargold, “the cost of maintenance far offsets any water savings.”

Caroma currently offers the H2Zero urinal in Australia, though the company introduced it to the North American market at several trade shows in 2007. As of mid-October 2007, there have been no installations of this urinal in North America. Sheargold expects that the H2Zero urinal will cost about $400, making it a more affordable option than the Cube3 Ultra. The service kit (including new diaphragm and deodorant block) will cost $45 to $55. Because there is no sealant or cartridge to replace, Sheargold claims that the return on investment will be very attractive. The first North American installations are expected in late 2007 or early 2008.

– Alex Wilson

For more information:

Derek Kirkpatrick

Caroma USA, Inc.

Hillsboro, Oregon

800-605-4218, 503-681-2720

Glenn Sheargold

Sustainable Solutions International

Burnaby, British Columbia

800-460-7019, 604-430-2020

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October 30, 2007