Properties Highlight – Let’s Do Better – Part 5

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. 

After last month’s Properties article, we all know where waste from the human animal is generated from and that many generations previously devised a means by which to capture that waste. So of course, there needs to be a place where all that waste goes off too.  But before we get into the waste management side of things, we next discovered our ‘place’ to deposit this collection needed to be expanded.  As we entertained ourselves in coliseums, arenas, theatres, and other venues where we gathered and observed or participated in all manner of events, it became clear our numbers did not add up.  To accommodate larger groups, we expanded our waste receiving facilities to do just that, receive our waste.  Even today we find that venues can’t keep up with the ‘demand’ even though we’ve devised codes to more properly ‘size’ the number of fixtures needed to serve larger crowds. 

It doesn’t take much thought about life in earlier centuries to realize the towns and cities were probably not the cleanest of places.  Given how facilities were provided within buildings with little to no plumbing, much of the waste was deposited outside the exterior wall of the structure.  And if you weren’t careful on your path through the town you could be dumped on or certainly dirty your boots to take into your next shopping experience.  We typically don’t ‘see’ that side of life back 100, 200, or several hundreds of years before, do we?! 

Now, in our BSA system of properties, we’ve evolved the facility we all will use at some point throughout the week.  Initially, we had a rough structure over a hole in the ground where we deposited our waste.  Most of us, or at least us older folks, know this as the outhouse.  Or, what some termed a “kybo”.  These structures have evolved through the years from wooden shelves with a hole cut out to a metal can or other material with a folding seat to what we see now being more actual toilets.  All these were placed over vaults or concrete boxes which necessitated being pumped out, or cleaned, on occasion.

Depending on the location and proximity to a municipal facility whereby a communities waste was collected and processed, these structures would be attached to a waste line that delivered the material collected to the plant.  Or, as is more typical in many of our BSA camp properties, would be processed on site in what’s become known as a septic system.  These have certainly evolved in capability, complexity, and efficiency all by themselves.  We are getting better! 

When you reflect back on life out on the plains, or for that matter even just in the Appalachians or thereabouts in the country, we had some sensitivities considering how small our living structures were at that time.  The outhouse was out away from the place we lived because we didn’t want to share what comes along with the outhouse – smells.  There were no vent fans, or for that matter much in the way of ventilation at all!  The half-moon cutout in the door was light and ventilation in one and didn’t do a good job of either!  Even in our “kybos” of today, and not so long ago, we have ventilation issues.  Vent pipes are not big enough or of size to really clear the vault of the collection of odors that propagate there.  This is an issue we still face today.  Poor ventilation. 

Hollywood would have us believe that people only bathed on Saturdays, or that’s the way it’s been conveyed via all the old westerns.  Considering the limited wardrobe most had, the work most did day in and day out and the cramped living quarters for most families, most cabins were probably not a place you’d want to spend a couple of hours chatting away with your neighbors when you made the hour-long trek over from your place to visit.  Small confines, smokey inside spaces, sweaty bodies, and little ventilation probably didn’t lend itself to the most pleasant of experiences.  No wonder we all lived so far apart!  Given most of us shower daily now (hopefully even at camp!) and defecate or urinate a couple times a day or more, ventilation is even more key to the success of our facilities than most anything else.  Especially in a camp setting where compartments are used multiple times a day, we simply need to move air in mass quantities!  For a cleaner environment we need a drier environment. 

Which brings us to good materials to use in constructing restroom facilities.  Wood is a cheap, OK, was a cheap material.  Not so much right now.  But while wood is very workable and we can assemble it in various combinations to perform specific functions, wood also absorbs moisture, rots, holds mold and mildew, and assorted other issues where it’s not really the best material to use to build walls out of in what more times than not are wet environments.  It becomes harder to keep them dry and to clean them easily enough to minimize other growths. 

A better material is either concrete block or poured in place concrete.  Nice thing with block is it has a built-in texture, so to speak.  Poured in place can be finished to a smooth surface and there’s block that can be used with smooth sides.  Both of these products can be treated to prevent moisture from being absorbed which concrete normally does.  Note, this treatment must be regularly updated to keep it performing well.  An on-going expense.  Something we don’t do well with in BSA properties. 

Another choice is metal wall studs.  Especially now as the price of lumber is so high, metal is a good option.  You’d have to acquire the metal that is not prone to rust in a wet space.  Nice thing with metal is you get very straight lines and surfaces!  It also lasts a long time. 

Probably the most versatile material for walls is tile.  Tile is available in varying sizes, colors, textures, and even thicknesses.  You can be as decorative as you want or as plain as you want, and everything in between.  Its easy to work with, easy to clean, and is easy to sanitize too.  With proper backing material this is an ideal material for wet spaces.  Floors and ceilings can also be tiled so you could have a complete compartment that is tiled on all surfaces. 

Concrete floors need to have protection and also need to be drained properly.  Know whatever treatment you may use it will be on-going given the amount of traffic these spaces typically get.  Drainage is not something we do well whether outside or inside.  While center of floor, floor drains may make cleaning easier, most people don’t prefer to walk through what’s draining out of compartments.  That should occur within that space and preferably in a manner to help keep the space dry too.  Outside drainage is the subject of another “Let’s Do Better” article. 

Costs for these structures is all across the board, especially now!  Where a ‘stick’ of lumber, say a 2×4 8’ in length used to be $1.50 to $2, they now run over $8,

per stick!!!  So the cost of a wall may go up over four times just from the framing

material.  It makes it more important than ever to look at alternative materials to achieve the same result. 

Here are illustrations of the recommended compartmentalized solutions for our restroom facilities throughout the camp property. 

Note the first illustration is more for camp site areas, or housing sites.  The second would be ideal for program areas, or those where no housing occurs. Also note that wherever a shower occurs, there will always be a toilet.

Next month well get into more detailed options for these facilities, but weve mentioned some of those within this months article.  And well cover our S, C, and S items so you have a clearer understanding of how all this comes together. 

See you next issue!   



Dave Cornell 

BSA Architect