By Rebecca Collins
Spanning 48 acres in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, Grand Central Terminal hosts approximately 750,000 visitors daily, 10,000 of which are lunchtime diners. In addition to housing 68 shops and 35 restaurants. Esteemed for its Beaux-Arts architecture, the high-profile venue also holds another distinction: busiest train station in the country.
Given its popularity and historical significance, it’s hard to fathom that the terminal was once in danger of being destroyed in favor of a high-rise office complex. Through a preservation campaign led by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and a favorable ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States, Grand Central was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and declared a historic landmark in 1976.
With the building and its rich history preserved, the first of many restoration projects commenced. Over time, as new technologies emerged, thoughtful planning was given to upgrading systems and integrating energy-efficient and sustainable products. “Everything we do, we must look at with sustainability in mind. We’ve made a number of upgrades to Grand Central Terminal over the years, including updating the electrical, plumbing and lighting systems led by our sustainability team,” said Steve Stroh, assistant deputy director of electrical and mechanical maintenance.
An area receiving particular attention were the restrooms throughout the facility. Originally outfitted with paper towel dispensers, restroom floors were often strewn with errant waste, and the sinks and toilets, clogged with improperly disposed of paper towels, despite routine cleaning and maintenance. To eliminate these problems and other issues associated with paper towels like the inherent labor, maintenance and waste, hand dryers were considered as a sustainable solution. An added challenge, however, was finding a product that could meet performance needs without compromising the integrity of the original architecture.
While at a rest stop, Stroh experienced the XLERATOR® Hand Dryer, produced by USGBC MA sponsoring partner Excel Dryer. Impressed with its performance, he and his boss researched the product and surmised it could meet all of their objectives relative to performance, reliability and sustainability. “We thought if they could hold up to the abuse of a public rest area, they would be a great option at Grand Central,” said Stroh. “With the XLERATOR, we don’t have to worry about paper towels ending up outside the garbage cans, clogging toilets or plugging up on our sewers. It’s eliminated the need for paper towels in our restrooms,” he furthered. “We dug around and researched the XLERATOR and saw that it also had a lot of green certifications.”
Ultimately, XLERATOR Hand Dryers proved to be the perfect solution at Grand Central, with 24 units replacing paper towels throughout the public and office spaces of the terminal. The XLERATORs provide more benefits than cleaner restroom environments; touch-free, sensor-activated technology reduces touch points and significantly improves hand hygiene. “Visitors don’t want to touch something that hundreds of other people have touched,” Stroh said.
“XLERATOR changed the standard for performance, reliability and customer satisfaction,” explained William Gagnon, vice president of marketing and sales at Excel Dryer. “We knew it would be put to the test at Grand Central with their tremendous amount of traffic. If the XLERATOR can make it here, it can make it anywhere.”
Working with Stroh and understanding the unique needs of the facility, custom covers were recommended and ultimately selected. Offered in a plethora of colors, textures and finishes, Stroh had no trouble selecting one to fit in with the décor. An added benefit was the vandal-resistant coating and finish. The XLERATOR Hand Dryers “take a lot of abuse,” he said. “The new covers are great for our application because we can scrub them to get rid of graffiti and keep them clean.”
Others have taken notice of the newfound cleanliness of the restrooms; since the installation of the XLERATOR Hand Dryers, Grand Central Terminal restrooms have been nominated among America’s best public restrooms.
Matching the décor and meeting desired performance and energy-efficiencies, XLERATOR Hand Dryers support the sustainable transformation of the Grand Central Terminal. Iconic in their own right, the XLERATORs provide a new train of thought on performance, reliability and sustainability.
For more information about Excel Dryer or its product line, visit exceldryer.com.