Properties Highlight – Let’s Do Better – Part 4

This is a continuing series of articles on various aspects of the properties we own, lease, care for, and look to make better.  As we all know, the program of Scouting is valuable to the growth of youth in this country and around the world.  Where we deliver that program needs to convey that value and the coming articles are intended to assist us all in making that conveyance to our current users, as well as all of our future users and their families. 


As was said in the intro for article three on pavilions, it became clear that one article combining material for both pavilions and restrooms was just too long!  Hence, article four here will be devoted solely to the restroom subject. 


One thing about the human animal that we all share in common, as in most animal species we know and love, live with, are annoyed by, and quite frankly can have the bejesus scared out of us by, is we all poop.  What goes in the front end gets processed and comes out the back end, or maybe in our stance, what goes in on top comes out the bottom. 


Depending on what source you look at, we developed what we know as a place to unload our waste somewhere around 3000 to 3800 BC.  Yes, BC!  Interestingly though, the flush toilet, as we know it, is a more recent creation of the 1800s.  Although there is evidence of a “flushing” waste system back in the 1500s.  Didn’t know you were going to get a lesson in history did you!? 


So, what did people do prior to ‘this place where we unload waste’ was created?  Like all animals, insects, and micro-organisms we squatted, raised a leg, knelt, or just stood and did our business.  Traveling to South America this writer witnessed people squatting in cities in the gutter of the street to relieve themselves.  In the remote village we missioned in, we accidentally walked through the villages ‘restroom’ area where all of the villagers went to take care of business.  An even today, over a billion of our fellow passengers on this satellite practice their hygiene needs much the same way since mankind began.  So, can we do better?  Especially in our camp facilities?  We need to! 


So, let’s talk about restrooms, public toilet, the loo, ladies or gents rooms, washroom, lav, garterobes, latrines, or the myriad of names this facility goes by.  Typically, the ‘restroom’ is where a sink and toilet are located.  This becomes a bathroom when a shower or tub is added to the other two fixtures.  So, in our camp system we’ve actually had both a restroom and a bathroom.  But, we’ve also had what could be called a hybrid model where the toilet is by itself and the shower is by itself and the sink/lav is outside of the other two.  The inefficiency of this model is inherent, and many of us have witnessed the issues that come along with this so-called solution.  Yes, you’re trying to offer the user the best chance for an accessible fixture, but when issues arise in a one-fixture room that room becomes non-usable until it is cleaned.  And as many women have done at large arenas and gathering events and the time taken to relieve themselves, many have resorted to going to other ‘available’ stations, if you will.  And that could be men’s rooms, shower compartments in camp settings, anywhere where waste can be deposited to go into the waste system.  And this is not meant to say that men don’t do this too, because they do!  When you have to go, you have to go! 


In today’s society the user of a latrine/toilet/restroom/bathroom is more conscious of cleanliness and privacy.  Thus, the evolution of the solution the properties team at the National Service Center has developed to be wherever occurs a shower there also occurs a toilet and lavatory/sink.  This is especially true in housing areas of camp. 


Instead of the old shower house where you’d find gang showers you also found toilets and sinks in rows along walls.  Nowadays, people want their privacy, but as an organization we’re also conscious of protecting each other from each other!  The new solution is a compartmentalized one offering a toilet and lav along with every shower and including a couple of toilet/lav compartments for those who only need a toilet.  The beauty of the compartmentalized solution is anyone can use any compartment.  We don’t have to designate times for boys and men, and now with girls as part of the organization (which they have been for years, com’on!).


Both girls and women can use any space too.  This should minimize/eliminate the pranks of early teen boys when girls come into camp.  And quite frankly, it is a two-way street here.  Girls have been known to prank as well! 


In program areas of camp, we can use the toilet only compartments.  Note the word compartments.  We’re not going to use a room of toilets with dividers between them.  Again, privacy issues.  Also, gender separation issues.  And just as we size the number of restrooms for offices, arenas, or theatres, we can also size a restroom building for the projected number of users in a program area. 


That brings us to the number of fixtures to be provided in a facility/camp.  The Boy Scouts of America organization years ago established the ratios of toilets to campers and showers to campers.  A camper could be any person, young or old, female or male. 


The old method of establishing the number of fixtures required was figured by how many folks could you get into camp.  So, if the camp could house 100 campers, had 25 staff members, and had another 25 miscellaneous folks for administration and maintenance and the like, you had 150 ‘campers’.  At the established ratios of 1:15 toilets you needed to provide 10 toilets.  At the established ratio of 1:20 showers you provided 8 showers (technically 7.5 but…). For the current required BSA ratios, check out NCAP standards FA-707 and FA-708.


What was discovered is the LOCATION of the toilets and showers was not highly considered so what was found is even the shower in the Ranger’s house was considered in the total to be provided.  This is not typical but has been found more than once across the system.  They were not considered for what they served as much as they were on the property somewhere!  So, you ended up with some fixtures being used heavily while others went hardly touched.  And the demand for the closest fixtures meant inconveniencing several. 


Nowadays, just as we do in the real world out there, we ‘size’ a facility with the number of fixtures that serve a particular area.  So, if you served four campsites of 40 people each, or 160 people, we would design a facility containing 8 showers, and 11 toilets.  If a program area capacity was 100 we would provide a building that housed 7 toilets.  We could provide a sink/lav with each toilet, or we could provide a commonly accessible set of sinks.  Nowadays we also provide drinking fountains, so everyone has access to drinking water. 


Ideally, this system of buildings located around a camp facility would all be connected to a wastewater system of some sort.  All of the wastewater generated, whether black water as it is called out of toilets, or grey water out of showers and lavs, would all drain into a system which ‘collects’ it and takes it to a treatment facility on the camp itself or offsite into a local system.  Depending on size of facility and the soils makeup in the area a septic field or tiered pond system could be utilized as a waste treatment solution as well. 


Or, as we do in many cases, we rent port-a-johns, chemical toilets, job site toilets, porta-potties, honey buckets, or whatever you may call a portable toilet.

Nice thing with these is they are temporary.  A company that provides them usually services them regularly so they’re clean, or cleaner.  The collected waste is taken to a designated facility and dumped off there for treatment.  Are they costly?  Yes!   Are they worth the expense?  Depends on the situation, but typically yes.  Being temporary and serviced, it’s a convenience so you don’t have to build/provide something more permanent. 


Next month we will get into the construction of one of these restroom/bathroom buildings.  Some good material choices and some better material choices.  Hopefully, we may get to some pricing information although that’s a bit challenged given what’s occurring in the supply chain currently. 


So, we’ve established a good foundation on the restroom issue from which to build our structure that houses the three fixtures we most commonly use.  And we’ll look to relate all of this to our three guiding principles of Sustainability, Conservation, and Stewardship.  See you next issue! 



Dave Cornell



May ’21



The Outdoor Programs / Properties Team is ready to assist and guide in any respect to making the program of Scouting the best youth program!  Reach out to any member of the team and we’ll endeavor to provide quality answers to any issue you may have and/or facing.  We look forward to working together to make the program the best ever!