Before the COVID-19 pandemic, going out to your favorite restaurant, the mall, a concert or any other public space was an everyday occurrence. Now, according to The Washington Post, many Americans “are not ready to go out to their favorite destinations until they feel confident about being able to safely use a public restroom.”
More often than not, restrooms are the first place airport guests visit when arriving and their last stop before departing - waiting for a flight and not feeling comfortable using the restroom is not ideal. At PHL, our answer is go right ahead.
PHL is in the midst of a multi-million-dollar Restroom Renovation Program to modernize 48 sets of passenger-facing restrooms, including male and female washrooms and all-gender assisted care washrooms. The program also includes ancillary functions, like janitor’s closets and storage; Service Animal Relief Areas (SARA); lactation suites; quiet spaces (for meditation, reflection and prayer); benches with device charging spaces; and assisted care spaces incorporating amenities, like changing tables.
Following the COVID-19 outbreak, enhancements were made to cleaning protocols for the health, safety and peace of mind of guests. “Custodians are tackling restrooms and other high touch common areas with multipurpose cleaning supplies, like the powerful Envirox Critical Care, a low toxicity spray that works in 30 seconds and last for 24 hours. We also wanted to make sure our new restroom design and construction reflected the changing environment,” said Api Appulingam, Deputy Director of Aviation, Capital Development.
PHL will be following guidelines from organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP). These industry guidelines and future guidelines will be incorporated into the restroom renovations. “We are open and flexible to accommodate additional changes in our restrooms in response to COVID-19. We want our guests to feel safe at every step of their journey, including using our restrooms,” said Appulingam.
Examples of design modifications to the program include touchless restrooms, anti-microbial finishes, minimization of surface area for bacteria to grow, additional sinks in all restrooms, highly visible hand washing stations, waterless sanitizing stations throughout the airport, and automated cleaning.
The program is currently divided into seven phases. Phases one and two are complete and will be refreshed again, as the last renovation was over seven years ago. The construction of phase three was paused in March following Governor Wolf’s order to cease all non-life sustaining activities, but has since resumed and will be completed by the end of 2020.
“It is important to balance public health and safety while ensuring the continued safety of critical infrastructure, so we have resumed our restroom construction efforts. The team has a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place and has implemented a creative phasing plan to efficiently complete the construction while adhering to the City of Philadelphia’s safety and mitigation requirements,” said Appulingam.
Phase four of this program was out for bid this month and will be constructed by the end of 2021. Phases five through seven are currently being designed by HDR, Inc., Arora Engineers, Inc., Connico Incorporated, Hunt Engineering Company, KS Engineers, PC, and Sci-Tek Consultants, Inc.