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"Green" Buildings Still Wasting Water and Power in their Washrooms


Administrators at the new, state-of-the-art conference center couldn't believe their water bill. The sensor-driven toilets "perceived" a need to flush every time people entered washroom stalls, closed the door or moved an air column. The new smart toilets, which saved users the "labor" of having to flush said the salesmen, flushed before, after and during people's use of them. Some went into flushus epilepsies and flushed continuously for hours.

Nor could administrators believe their electric bill. The smart, sensor-driven hand-driers "perceived" a need to turn themselves on when people walked past them to the toilets, sinks or to get toilet paper to dry their hands which 98 percent of public washroom users prefer to hand-driers. Hand-driers are universally detested because they are loud, hot, chap the hands and environmental excessive. Hand-driers that turn themselves on all day long are even worse.


Despite all the wasted toilet water, the new, sensor-driven faucets in the conference center surrendered no water at all. Some had never given water since the conference center opened, which lessened cleaning bills (like having hand-driers instead of paper towel.) Meeting attendees stood in front of them for minutes trying hand signals like paper, scissors and rock and "drying-the-fingernail-polish" feeling idiotic and wondering if they were missing an obvious "on" signal.

Sometimes the faucets would comply with a dollop of water which would leave soap on the hands for removal by toilet paper. Other times, faucets would vend a spurt of water which was ice cold or scalding hot. If the faucets stayed on for the duration of hand washing, the basin would fill because the drain didn't work. No one knew it didn't work because it had never had to work.

And despite the smart toilets, faucets and hand-driers, there were no hooks on the walls at the brand new conference center for attendees to hang their messenger bags, purses, coats and totes. No shelves for their binders and papers, which attendees by definition have. Attendees could put their belongings on the floor, on the wet counter (activating the hand-driers as they moved past) or hold them the entire time, which most did.

Of course there were also no hooks in the washroom stalls so attendees had to hold their belongings while they activated flushus epilepsies. But there was also no lock on the stall door, so attendees also had to hold the door shut with their knees at the same time in a modified dog/rabbit yoga pose.

Though it looks like salesmen of smart technology have concentrated all their mendacity on public washrooms, they haven't. Recently, some doctors who had moved into modern new offices couldn't find the light switch to darken the room and view some X-rays. They buzzed for the office manager.

"The new light system runs by sensors," she told them, not quite making eye contact. "The lights turn on by themselves when they sense it is dark outside." She did not need to add they'd be viewing the X-rays at night.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist and cartoonist, who writes about public health

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