RIPON, Wis. — Architects responsible for the design of hospitals, hotels, long-term care facilities and other complex projects are expected to be experts on a wide range of subjects, including the layout and equipment selection of on-premises laundry (OPL) facilities.
To me, this seems like a pretty tall order.
So, if there’s any one best practice I can recommend, it’s for architects to consider engaging (at no charge) an experienced laundry representative to provide input and guidance. Following are just some simple considerations we cover with architects.
LAUNDRY ROOM LOCATION
When the project is new construction, we recommend locating the laundry room on a floor with a minimum 12-inch cement slab. Moreover, that slab needs to rest on compacted earth and aggregate (i.e., not over a parking structure or other sub-basement structure).
The reason is that this gives the building owner (or building management) the option of choosing the right hard-mount washer-extractors, which offer several benefits.
Hard-mount (or rigid-frame) machines contain fewer parts, because they are anchored to the floor. They don’t require the heavy duty shocks and springs that soft-mount units utilize. Mounting the washers on concrete reduces the number of vibration-control parts required. Typically, fewer parts means fewer things to maintain or repair.
Another advantage of hard-mount machines is they can employ significant forces to extract water and thereby shorten drying time. Accordingly, there are labor efficiencies (enhanced throughput) and utility savings.
Finally, hard-mount machines are less expensive to operate over time and some manufacturers offer a more robust warranty, which can be as high as 48,000 cycles. Soft-mount machines often carry a 30,000-cycle warranty.
If the project is associated with existing infrastructure, or if other factors necessitate locating the laundry room on an upper floor, then we would suggest specifying soft-mount machines.
For example, building space in New York City is expensive. It’s not always possible to put the laundry room on a cement structure that’s suitable. Again, this is where working with laundry experts can help navigate these types of structural and architectural challenges to arrive at the most efficient design.
LAUNDRY ROOM LAYOUT
The laundry room layout is important, especially during peak times, such as when a hotel is at full capacity. A laundry expert can provide guidance on the amount of labor required to work in peak conditions and, similarly, the open floor space required for them to work efficiently.
Moreover, the room needs to incorporate space for a variety of stationary and mobile equipment. These include sorting tables, folding tables, laundry carts, laundry chutes (if used), safety equipment and chemical storage.
Another consideration we point out is the actual location of washer-extractors relative to tumblers. It makes sense to minimize the distance between them, but not to the exclusion of staff comfort and efficiency.
If you place the machines such that they face one another, you must allow enough space for the doors of each to be open simultaneously, without contact, and for employees to be able to pass by one another with armfuls of linens.
Finally, it’s not unusual during commercial building construction for machinery to be installed in its final location prior to the completion of framing and other construction tasks. Backup generators, for instance, are often placed on rooftop-based cradles, after which, a powerhouse is completed around it.
Similarly, laundry equipment such as washer-extractors, tumblers and ironers may be placed prior to the room being fully trimmed—and this can be problematic, as many standard door openings are 36-inches wide to accommodate ADA compliance, etc.
Yet, the frames of washer extractors and tumblers can be 38 inches wide, or wider. Thus, when they need to be replaced or repaired, removing them becomes complicated.
While some of this advice seems simplistic, quite often it’s little details that are overlooked.
Space equates to dollars, and there’s a lot of pressure on architects to minimize space while maximizing efficiency. It can lead to unforeseen situations.
MACHINE CHOICE AND PROPER CAPACITIES
While there are many experienced architects that can determine laundry room and equipment capacity requirements for a facility, it can be helpful to get confirmation from a laundry expert.
For example, calculating laundry room space, equipment and staffing requirements for a 200-bed hospital at full capacity can be bewildering. Laundry experts, however, can a bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the task.
What we do is perform calculations that account for full occupancy (and less) such that all laundry needs can be addressed in an eight-hour shift.
TECHNOLOGY ENHANCES ARCHITECT ACCESS TO LAUNDRY EXPERTISE
One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in the last 20 years is how we work with architects. Demanding project timetables and tight budgets have made it advantageous for architects to rely more heavily on our expertise.
Further, electronics and technology (high-speed connectivity, the cloud, etc.) facilitate our interactions. We can quickly share and review documents, blueprints and pictures simultaneously, and remotely.
We are also finding that we are drawn into the projects much earlier—
which we prefer because it prevents mistakes and rework. Though we are brought into the process earlier, we still like to see the blueprints around the 80% completion mark. This helps ensure nothing has been overlooked.
As you can see, there are a variety of details to consider when it comes to designing and equipping OPL facilities—I’ve only scratched the surface.
We realize architects are very busy. Yet, there are sometimes brief respites between projects or other occasions when they can “come up for air.” When this happens, we encourage them to attend a laundry lunch-and-learn event, where they can stay up to date on the changing needs of laundry facilities.
These events are usually hosted at a local distributorship or a convenient meeting space. Laundry experts and distributor personnel cover all the steps and considerations relevant to OPL operation planning.