Touch-free technology has improved over the years and the resulting products, including automatic flush valves, faucets, and towel and soap dispensers, are growing in popularity.

Building service contractors looking to suggest retrofitting restrooms with some of these products to their customers have many strong selling points to grab a facility manager’s attention. For example, touch-free products help prevent cross-contamination and improve the public image. Facility managers receive fewer complaints from tenants about people not flushing toilets and urinals.

The best time to retrofit restroom fixtures is during a remodeling project. If BSCs are aware of such an opportunity, they can propose to retrofit the soap and towel dispensers, or flush vales on urinals and commodes or possibly even the sink faucets. Retrofitting these restroom fixtures can be done during weekends when restrooms are not in use by building occupants. However, manufacturers have made the process of retrofitting products from standard to touch-free so simple and seamless that BSCs don’t always have to wait for a remodel project to make the switch.

Retrofitting has also gotten cheaper as technology has improved. Many products now use batteries rather than electricity. In addition to being less expensive, this type of technology is typically not as complicated to install. Many flush valve kits simply slide over the existing handle of the fixture and clamp in place. In some instances, BSCs don’t even need to have the water shut off in order to retrofit urinals and commodes.

But retrofitting doesn’t stop with touch-free toilets and urinals. Touch-free soap dispensers can be hung on the wall, or deck-mounted models can be installed in the existing counter opening. Touch-free towel dispensers can also be mounted to walls. For Class-A facility restrooms that use stainless steel cabinet dispensers, manufacturers offer touch-free models that use stainless steel filler panels to retrofit the towel dispensers seamlessly into existing recessed dispenser cabinets. These models comply with ADA regulations and BSCs don’t have to remove the entire stainless steel unit in order to retrofit the towel dispenser.

Faucets, however, are a little more complex for retrofitting. While contractors will still be able to use the existing sink opening for faucet heads, they will need to shut the water off and replace the existing plumbing hardware in order to install touch-free equipment.

Before suggesting a retrofit project, BSCs should perform a due diligence study to understand the scope of the work involved. With any project work, there can be unexpected problems. Reduce the risk by training staff beforehand.

Retrofitting old fixtures to touch-free products will enhance the overall restroom experience. While the cost of this project will fall to facility managers, BSCs can assist their customers by helping them make smart product choices before performing the retrofit.

Excerpted from the February 2006 issue of Contracting Profits.