Facilities Services is currently addressing students’ concerns about a men’s restroom, because the door had been kept propped open to make it ADA accessible. Though natural noises and odors were an issue over the course of weeks, it was the chatter from students’ complaints to the school’s dean that prompted action.
The problematic restroom, which is adjacent to the front lobby of Meadowbrook Campus’ Building B, faces ceiling height limitations that prevent installation of a typical electronic door opener.
“There are a few people that have complained, even a professor there. They feel uncomfortable walking in the restroom, because while people are using the restroom, you can smell it outside throughout—it’s really embarrassing,” said Vinh Nguyen, a student at the Meadowbrook Campus, in a phone interview.
Facilities is diligently working towards a permanent solution, but the steps to this point have whiffed through some unfavorable experiments, such as keeping the door open all the time for those students in a wheelchair.
“The men’s room is kept open, because we have two male students in wheelchairs,” says Shawndell Hoyt, a staff specialist who works at the building’s front desk at the lobby adjacent to the restroom. “It’s a pain having that door open. You hear noises coming from there. I won’t go into detail.”
Russ Collett, an academic coordinator in his fourth year at Salt Lake Community College, is responsible for the Meadowbrook site. His position is to “make sure that things are in the proper working order for class.”
“I e-mailed [Facilities] and said that’s not a good solution, since this restroom is right off of the lobby,” says Collett.
The open door experiment was only a temporary solution.
As part of that idea, Facilities temporarily installed boards over some of the restroom’s mirrors to prevent any reflective viewing of the stalls from passersby.
“They covered those, before they propped the doors open,” says Collett.
The building was essentially shop space, modified and retrofitted by SLCC to include an upper level with “a couple classrooms and office space,” according to Collett. He says the first floor ceilings are low, “really low.” The ceiling height is just above the head of the door. These existing limitations has forced less than ideal solutions.
The Meadowbrook Campus buildings were purchased from Smith Detroit Diesel, a repair shop, and later remodeled mainly on the exterior, confirmed Bob Askerlund, assistant vice president of Facilities Services.
Most of the structure remained in place as it was not cost-effective to tear the buildings down and build anew at that time.
“We have been in this building quite a few years, and so this is a new issue,” says Askerlund. “The building has been fine up to this point, but we have students now that have different needs, so we’ve tried to address those as best we can with an intermediate solution. That’s what you are seeing right now.”
Despite this door issue, both the men’s and women’s restrooms are fully operational, usable and otherwise meet ADA standards.
“The door to the women’s bathroom can remain closed, because we currently don’t have any women in wheelchairs at Meadowbrook,” says Hoyt.
Facilities Services removed the latch and that now allows the door to be freely pushed open from the inside. Thus, the door can remain closed.
“It’s not really a problem. I’ve asked people to open it for me,” says Anthony Nelson, a computer networking student at Meadowbrook Campus the past two years, who is one of the two students most affected by the door.
For those in motorized chairs and with limited arm motion ability, it requires assistance from another person. Front desk staff has mostly obliged to assist those students in need.
“It’s something they are working on and trying to come up with the best solution for everybody. It’s a known issue, but I’m used to it. I’ve been in wheelchairs my whole life, so it’s not the first time I’ve had to do this,” says Nelson.
The building poses special challenges due to the existing minimal floor to floor and ceiling heights.
“We are in the process of trying to find something that will work right now. Standard door openers will not work in there because of the height requirement. We have no height in that building. The ceiling is actually at the head of the door, and most openers require some space above that head of the door,” says Askerlund.
The ceiling height is only one obstacle. Pipes above the ceiling are another.
“We’ve looked at maybe creating a pocket for that and just running the power up in the ceiling, but when we got investigating, there are some mechanical components that are right above the door that are almost tight to the ceiling grid, so we can’t get the door operator in,” explains Askerlund.
Complicating matters further is finding manufacturers making the necessary hardware.
According to Askerlund, one manufacturer’s device was found that actually mounts on the door, but the only way to operate it is by motion sensor, a solution not feasible for a high traffic location.
“Yeah, anybody that walks by, that’s the concern it will be opening and shutting all the time. Might as well have it propped open,” says Collett.
Facilities Services continues its search for a proper solution.
“We are investigating whether we can interrupt the motion sensor activator to install a typical paddle switch, but we are not there yet. Once we do that, we void the warranty of the unit,” says Askerlund. “If we left the motion activation on it, the door would be constantly opening and closing which, from a maintenance standpoint, it would fail fairly quickly. That is not ideal for us either, so we are currently trying to investigate the best solution for that. As soon as we come up with something, we’ll get that installed and operable.”