Rick Nortier, Sloan Valve Co.

Rick Nortier. Photo courtesy of  Sloan Valve Co.

Rick Nortier is Sloan’s product line manager for faucets and Sloan Monitored Systems. Nortier also has worked as Sloan’s marketing research manager and as a development engineer where he was involved in the creation of several patented plumbing systems. Nortier has written many white papers and bylined articles related to plumbing technologies. He took some time recently to talk to pme about a number of subjects, including relationships with plumbing engineers, specifiers and designers and the recent introduction of the company’s new BASYS commercial faucet platform.

pme: What commercial restroom products and/or systems currently have the "it"

RN: Anything electronic that employs power harvesting and/or battery power is popular right now. Power harvesting, such as solar- or turbine-powered faucets, harvest energy from the environment and significantly extend battery life. Having batteries lowers the upfront installation cost because you are not pulling wires and transformers to provide power.

pme: How important is a manufacturer's relationship with engineers, specifiers and designers of commercial restroom spaces?

RN: Our independent reps play a huge role because you are dealing with very technical products. Many of them have engineering degrees. They are the ones calling on the plumbing engineers and architects who call the shots on what goes into buildings. Our reps have to understand how the systems work. It’s not just a piece of hardware that goes on a countertop.

pme: How do you approach the introduction of new material to an engineer who may be comfortable using an existing product/technology based on personal track record?

RN: For example, when we launched the new BASYS faucets, we did a lot of research, including with specifying engineers to learn: What do they look for in a product? What gives them pause? It gives our message a lot of credibility when you have been out in the trenches talking to their peers. We’ve done test sites during product development and have testimonials from those sites. Once they know there has been a good experience and are given the opportunity to speak to that facility, they get over that technology hurdle.

pme: How do you balance the low-flow/optimal performance teeter-totter?

RN: That’s a great question. There is a continuous drive to go lower, and in some cases, maybe too low. It’s a delicate balancing act. Usually, it’s limited by the codes. We’ve seen facilities from the 1930s where bowls were designed for 6 gpf. They tried to go to 1.6 or 1.28 gpf and couldn’t do it because of the drainlines, so they were forced to go to a slightly higher flush. With a retrofit, you are limited to the design of the building. Not evacuating a fixture fully is a failure in our world.

pme: How big a role does cost play in the specification of green plumbing products both from capital outlay and money savings standpoints?

RN: Money is always front and center on both ends. People are willing to pay if they see the value. People are still cash-strapped. Nobody is retrofitting a 50-floor office building in one shot. It’s done in phases over a number of years.

pme: How can the new BASYS faucet platform aid a commercial building owner/operator?

RN: It’s an entire line of faucets developed around the needs of different applications. A hospital, for instance, has faucets in the surgical scrub area, the public restrooms, the wash areas for patients and caregivers, and the nurse’s station. For a scrub sink, you need a faucet where you can wash high up the arm. A public restroom needs a lower profile, vandal-resistant model. With BASYS, you can put different body types in, and the electronics are interchangeable between faucets. Just because you have a solar faucet, you don’t need different electronics. You can swap out components and use them anywhere else in the facility. The end user is getting a lot of flexibility and ease of service.

pme: Where does water conservation go from here with commercial plumbing products?

RN: The next big thing is going to be real-time monitoring, which ties into green. Why is green important? Money. People are willing to invest the money if they get the results. Monitoring lets you track  water and money savings. It’s real-time, continuous commissioning. You are able to remotely monitor water usage by one toilet or restrooms throughout a facility and then collect and report that data. That level of tracking is key to reducing operating costs and making facilities greener.

pme: Are waterless urinals becoming more greatly accepted?

RN: Yes, much more so than they were five years ago, as well as the whole high-efficiency urinal category. There are urinals now that flush one-quarter or one-eighth of a gallon. Those didn’t exist at the time water-free urinals came out. With the advent of the quarter and the eighth, this whole segment continues to grow.

pme: How has the evolution of the flush valve influenced commercial plumbing?

RN: People used to be very skeptical of electronics. They were new and untested. More and more now, everything is going electronic. People understand the benefits and the hygienic aspect of not having to touch things in a public restroom. You also have accessibility now from an ADA standpoint. I think you will see a lot more to come.

pme: Where are you seeing the greatest upticks for commercial restroom products?

RN: With the economy, there is not a lot of new construction. New construction now is probably health care. That’s down, but not as down as everybody else. More hospitals have been built or upgraded in the last few years. We’ve seen a lot of retrofit work that cuts across all categories such as schools and office buildings. There are still a lot of opportunities for retrofits to save water. There are still a lot of 3.5-gpf fixtures to be retrofitted. There are different housing authorities built in the 60s that now want 1.6 and 1.28. The math is easy at that point to save a lot of water and money.

pme: How has Sloan dealt with the recent legislative rulings over the last year or so regarding showerhead flow rate and low-lead requirements?

RN: We’ve stayed on top of it, specifically the low-lead requirements in California. Last year, we switched our entire faucet line over to comply with low-lead requirements. We have a showerhead series that complies with the 2.0-gpm requirement.