When you see the almost instant change from apprehension to joy on a child’s face when meeting a sheep for the first time, you can immediately appreciate the value of a petting zoo.
But while petting zoos are fun, and often treasured by both children and parents, they also pose risks. The CDC reports that “Every year, many people get sick after visiting an animal exhibit.”
Many states have enacted laws that require hand washing stations with soap and running water to be available at the exits of these petting zoos in order to promote better hygiene and stop the spread of germs.
When Philadelphia architectural firm SMP Architects was tasked with the design of KidZooU at the Philadelphia Zoo, hand washing stations had to be in their plan.
Because this outdoor area would be open all year long, the stations would have to work even in freezing temperatures. It was that specification that, at first, appeared difficult to overcome.
SMP Architects reached out to sales manager Jeff Showalter to see if he might have an answer. Neo-Metro manufactures hand washing solutions typically used for indoor applications, like commercial bathrooms. This was the first request for something that could operate in freezing conditions.
Showalter immediately turned to Bob Murdock, CEO of Murdock® Manufacturing, a Morris Group International member known for its drinking fountains, who was able to guide Jeff through the process of creating customized hand washing stations with freeze-resistant valves. The next step was adapting the push button operation to meet the needs of a hand washing application.
A drinking fountain button typically opens the valve and allows water to flow only when pressed, which would make washing one’s hands rather difficult. To solve this problem, Showalter and Murdock turned to Acorn. We provided a customized timer system allowing water to flow for a specified period after the button is pressed. Once the time runs out and the valve closes again, any remaining water automatically drains down to a gravel pit six feet below the surface, preventing it from freezing inside the line.
Service & Maintenance
Now we began planning how the units could most easily and efficiently be serviced. Eight individual stations per wash fountain with four stations per valve resulted in two valves per fountain. So what to do if a problem arises with one of those eight spray heads? How could we simplify the process of pinpointing which one is malfunctioning and save the maintenance crew time?
Answer: We color coded each individual spray head line so it could easily be traced back to the valve in need of service.
Finding Solutions Together
This wasn’t just an in-house collaboration. There was constant interaction with the architect, the zoo director, and the local reps to make sure the hand washing stations would work well in the natural and built environment.
On a recent visit to the Philadelphia Zoo, one of the docents stationed in the petting zoo area told us that kids love the hand washing stations. Parents are using the units as a teachable moment on the importance of washing hands. Some of the kids seem to enjoy the hand washing stations as much as they do the petting zoo!
There are eight stations in all: four at adult ADA height and four at children’s height. Showalter said, “I don’t like to say no when I see a project like this come to us. I like to see what resources we have available and how we can bring the different MGI divisions together to do something no one has ever done before.”
It’s been a cold winter in Philadelphia, but the petting zoo remains open, and the hand washing stations are keeping hands clean—as well as providing a bit of entertainment for the kids.
Since helping to design these custom non-freezing outdoor sink stations for the Philadelphia Zoo, Acorn Engineering Company has continued to provide hand washing solutions. Whether you’re looking for a single- or multi-user hand washing station, for indoor or outdoor use, we can supply it. We even have a line of portable sinks for maximum convenience and flexibility—and with our Kwik Ship program, you don’t even have to wait!
If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t find a product that fits your specifications, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’ll pull all our Morris Group International resources together and come up with a custom product perfect for your job.