You don’t have to be a history student to know modern plumbing changed the world. The bathroom is a fundamental part of our built environment, and like every other fundamental part of our lives, technology is changing it. The question is, what can those changes do for you?

For schools and other facilities managing high-use restrooms, many of these changes will vastly improve maintenance and cleaning, helping us keep shared spaces healthy for everyone. Fixture manufacturers will be able to measure water flow and flushes. If a toilet isn’t flushing correctly, a signal is sent. If there’s a leak or faulty valve wasting water, that difference in flow is detected before thousands of gallons of water are wasted.

There are also technologies coming online as we speak, and we mean the online part literally. The idea behind the Internet of Things (IoT) is about leveraging connectivity and information for better efficiency. New technologies help custodians reduce wasted efforts and respond to service on a just-in-time basis. Waste bins can warn cleaning teams when they are full. Soap dispensers and paper dispensers can warn custodians when they need to be refilled.

Current technology has also made disinfection safer and faster. Portable UVC lighting can provide 99 percent disinfection throughout a room without using chemicals. The room must be vacant at the time for UVC technology, but there are LED technologies in use today that can kill bacteria safely while the room is in use – a boon to high-use locker rooms.

Building design also helps, like using seamless, non-porous materials for surfaces and walls, which are easier to disinfect. You may not be able to upgrade your restrooms to less porous and more durable surfaces today, but you can take advantage of current innovations in cleaning. From electrostatic sprays to microfiber cloths, up-to-date best practices leverage today’s tools to cost-effectively keep school spaces healthy.

Gordon Buntrock is National Director of Service Delivery for education services at ABM and has more than 40 years of experience in the facility services industry. He joined ABM in July 2016.