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The Toilet Industry is More Interesting Than You Ever Imagined. Seriously.
September 28, 2010 10:45 AM
OUR EXCRETIOUS WORLD
As I was walking from the subway to the office this morning, I passed a local tavern called the Old Town.
Back in May, MV editor-in-chief Kevin Depew described it
"Even if you've never been to the Old Town Bar, you've been to the Old Town Bar. Walking in off 18th Street near Park Avenue, the first thing you'll see is the hard corner edge of a 55-foot-long mahogany and marble bar that somehow seems familiar. The 16-foot tin ceiling will draw you up, make you stand a bit straighter, just enough to catch your reflection above the rows of liquor bottles standing in front of a bevel-edged plate mirror running the length of the bar, or in one of the smaller mirrors just above the booths on your right. It's a soft, faded reflection, maybe even a slightly weary one -- the bar's been around since 1892 -- almost as if the mirror has seen enough of the likes of you, a casual judgment passed with cold indifference. After a drink you'll look better. Then the mirror will warm up a bit and become your friend."
Customers (male ones, at least) have another two friends located in the back,--the last operating set of Hinsdale Urinals on the East Coast, which were patented by Winfield E. Hinsdale in 1901 to suppress splashing.
Anyway, there was a poster in the window about a talk some sort of urinal historian was going to give about the Hinsdales at the Old Town and when I got in to the office, I spent the next hour learning everything I could about toilets.
What I found is a fascinating industry, with a rich history, that is uniquely positioned for guaranteed growth as new environmental regulations are put into place. It started in In 1994, when Congress mandated that toilets flush using no more than 1.6 gallons of water.
Kohler, which is the second-largest private company in Wisconsin and operates 51 manufacturing facilities in 16 countries with sales just shy of $5 billion, is the behemoth that will likely reap large rewards as more and more states and municipalities go even further, like California, where lawmakers recently rewrote the building code to mandate that even higher-efficiency toilets and urinals be sold or installed after Jan. 1, 2014.
That's why Kohler is continually working to make ever-more advanced low-flow commodes, with new models that flush with no more than 1.28 gallon hitting market next year and the entire line will follow suit within the next four years.
Shane Judd, a marketing executive in Kohler's water-conservation division, says, "Here's the big opportunity: There are still 100 million 3.5-gallon or greater toilets in homes today in the U.S. People are wasting water for no reason."
The company also is aggressively conquering markets that are chronically short on water like Australia and parts of India.
Kohler currently has a team of PhDs in computational fluid dynamics who have replaced the inefficient floating balls and rubber flappers in toilets with high-pressure valves and mechanisms, which will further advance bathroom technology.
These advances will not come at the expense of urinal R&D. A typical urinal consumes a full gallon of fresh water with each flush, but Judd says Kohler (located in the village of Kohler, a planned community built in 1912, which is
a whole other story
in itself) has invented a model that uses only an eighth of that.
And now, since you've stuck with me this far, a treat:
From Urinal.net, my top picks from the world's "Top Ten Most Fascinating Urinals".
1) Women's urinal, Dairy Queen, Port Charlotte, Florida
2) The urinals of Hat Noppharat Thara, Phi Phi Islands National Park, Thailand
3) The urinals of the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station
And now--and this is not a joke--I need to use the men's room.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
TOILETS REALLY ARE INTERESTING!
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