Tips for incorporating portable toilets into tented events.
By Jake Kulju
When Abraham Maslow published his now-famous A Theory of Human Motivation in which he introduced the world to “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,” he hardly had portable restrooms in mind. Regardless of his intended focus, however, his theory does apply to the success of tented events. Whether a tent is designed for an elaborate wedding or set up as shelter for a construction crew, people’s basic needs must be met—including a suitable restroom.
Steve Young, president and CEO of New Orleans-based Event Restroom, provides an array of portable restrooms—from the ubiquitous portable toilets seen at festivals to boutique restroom trailers complete with vessel sinks, flat screen TVs and private stalls.
“We carry more than 50 restroom trailers in our fleet and are one of the largest fleets in the portable restroom industry,” says Young, whose company offers restrooms with options such as solar power, hand washing stations and wheelchair accessible units.
It’s My Potty, an Ontario, Canada-based portable restroom provider, has a special focus on the film and event industries. “Our fleet is mostly comprised of portable restroom trailers with two lines of higher end plastic portables,” says Paul Kenyon, managing director of It’s My Potty. “In our experience, construction rentals result in wear and tear on equipment that event organizers simply won’t tolerate.”
Planning for portables
Providing suitable restroom accommodations for tented events requires more than setting up a line of portable toilets. It takes accurate estimates of usage, adequate supplies for each unit and strategic placement that works in harmony with the structure of the event.
“Experience is the most common tool we use [when determining how many portable toilets to provide],” Young says. “The Portable Sanitation Association
International (PSAI) also provides a helpful toilet
usage chart that event planners and restroom providers can reference.”
If planning for the right amount of portable toilets at a tented event is the most important step, placing them in the right location is a close second. “Sometimes a [portable restroom or restroom trailer] has its own tent that is attached to the main tent, and sometimes we create a landscape around the trailers to camouflage the look,” says Geri Sims, owner and lead event designer of Atlanta Wedding Decoration & Event Design, Atlanta, Ga. “We will often bring in trees, bushes, flowers and piled pine straw, as well. We also box in the restroom trailer with white drape to make it look like part of the tent.”
Kenyon agrees. “As restroom operators, we always petition to have the facilities as close to the crowd as possible,” he says. “Planners with years of experience with the old chemical flush standard potties frequently want them as far away as possible. Further, the best real estate is always reserved for things that show a higher return. We explain how our equipment is different and how we can even ‘disguise’ the portable restrooms behind well-placed advertising which, in some cases, pays for the portable restrooms themselves.”
It’s My Potty has also had its restroom trailers wrapped in conventional vinyl vehicle wraps to disguise them or to display advertising. Young, who has placed countless portable toilets and restroom trailers at tented events along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida, leaves it up to the event planner. “Typically the planner or designer will determine the best location by using their entire layout, the amount of space they have available and other components of the event, including client input,” he says.
“We carry one brand of portable toilet, Poly Portables, and [I believe] it’s the best brand,” Young says. “Our fleet of 1,400 comes in eight different colors, as well as Enhanced Access Unit (EAU) wheelchair accessible toilets. Most of the time a walkway or accessible ramp is framed up from the floor [for access to the restroom] or sometimes a 10-foot-wide walkway with a canopy is provided by the event planner.” Young’s team can also provide up to 300 hand washing stations, which are double sided, providing two sinks per station.
Young’s restroom trailer options are even more varied. “We carry several different brands and models,” he says. The list includes luxury units from JAG Mobile Solutions, heavy duty units for festivals and industrial sites from Advanced Containment Systems Inc., solar powered units for film industry applications from NuConcepts and additional units from Alpha Mobile Solutions and Wells Cargo. “We have used our JAG trailers for high-end events like Mark Cuban’s Super Bowl party and NBA All-Star Michael Jordan’s birthday,” Young says.
What about supplying the units with water? It’s as simple as connecting a basic water hose. However, Young’s company does occasionally use a 3,000-gallon potable water truck for specialty use when a water line isn’t available or inconvenient to access. “[The truck] allows us to bring in pillow tanks and freshwater tanks if need be so you don’t have to run a water line to trailers,” he says.
Sims points out that generators are often needed to supply power to trailer units that have water pressure pumps, lighting, stereos and TV displays.
When it comes to choosing a provider, Kenyon has some insight into ROI. “Instead of just calling around to get quotes or firing off a request for quote via email to a half dozen portable restroom providers, I would encourage [event] planners to invite restroom operators to be a part of the conversation,” he says. “We are all trying to do more with less and portable restroom operators are no different. We recognize that planners are working within tighter budgets all the time. Entering into a dialogue with a handful of operators helps you to maximize the return on their involvement.”
The end of the event is only half of the job for restroom providers. After an event, restroom providers must remove the units and dispose of the waste
“We use one of our eight pump trucks to pump out all the waste and then it is hauled to the treatment facility, where you pay anywhere from 5 cents a gallon upwards to 20 cents a gallon,” Young says.
“Most of our smaller trailers are fully self-contained,” Kenyon says. “To be fully self-contained means the unit can power itself (at least nominally to run essential lights, fans and pumps), must have an on-board water supply and an on-board ability to store waste. Larger trailers can either be hooked up to standing electricity, municipal water and waste-water supplies. In rarer circumstances and, depending on the length and complexity of the event, we can even provide generators, external water cisterns and even waste water bladders. In all cases but those with a municipal waste water connection, gray and black water is hauled off-site to a wastewater treatment plant using a vacuum or pump truck.”
The necessity of restrooms at tented events does not limit event planners and designers to strictly utilitarian options. Working with a restroom provider during the planning stages can result in stylish, sustainable and luxurious portable restrooms that suit any event.