Bathroom in a Box

Big in Europe and Japan, spurred by sky-high labor and construction costs, the prefabricated bathroom for multi-unit construction is pretty much a novelty in the U.S. But Jeff Barrett sees it as the wave of the future, particularly for the hotel industry. Barrett's the president and CEO of Eggrock LLC, a manufacturer, (he says the only U.S. manufacturer at this time), of pre-built hotel bathrooms. He founded the company in 2004 following an engineering and operations-based career in the medical device industry. Barrett recognized an opportunity to apply the same manufacturing technology solutions he saw in other industries to the hotel construction business.

BATHROOM BUGABOO

Bathrooms are one of the most problematic areas of hotel construction and are famous for construction delays and quality issues. “Bathrooms are the highest dollar-per-square-foot item in a building,” Barrett says. “They're just a nightmare to build. You're trying to coordinate up to eight trades in a tiny room. You've got no-shows or late shows and when they're done you've got a punch list of problems that require months to fix.” For example, Barrett says, in a site-built bathroom, the tub is typically installed as soon as the framing goes in. “The problem is, the hotel has another eight months or more of construction to go, so the tubs end up getting damaged, say, when workers drop tools in them. Ten percent must be ripped out and replaced.”

Pre-building bathrooms eliminates that problem with controlled factory conditions. Upon delivery to the construction site, units are ready to be hoisted into place and hooked up to a hotel's plumbing and electrical system.

Eggrock's first customer is a Holiday Inn Express in Cookeville, TN, built by Platinum Hospitality Management. Eggrock installed all 93 bathrooms in four days, which resulted in a two-month reduction in the construction schedule. Each bathroom was pre-tested and underwent a 120-point inspection process to conform to Holiday Inn Express brand's stringent quality requirements.

“Bathrooms are a critical part of hotel construction because they require a variety of high-skilled trades to be perfectly coordinated under less-than-ideal construction site conditions,” says Mitch Patel, president of Platinum Hospitality Management. “Pre-built bathrooms eliminate this problem by providing a plug-and-play solution to a very complex room. As a result we will open our Holiday Inn Express in record time and with a dramatically improved workmanship quality.”

Adds Barrett, “It's really about taking a thing that traditionally involves hundreds of components that have to be intricately organized and put together and creating one integrated solution, like an appliance.”

PROTOTYPE TO PRODUCTION

The manufacturing process at Eggrock's Concord, MA facility employs 20 workers. First up, Eggrock meets with the designer or architect and turns their two-dimensional plans into a 3D model, rendering a realistic view of the room. A reference unit is built, and after client approval, construction commences.

Runs over 50 units are ideal for customizing, reports Barrett. “And we can do a four-star quality bathroom. Actually, this client upgraded their bathroom with granite and tiles on the walls — none of that tub surround stuff. It's got high-end faucets and toilets, too.” Other features include towel bars, mirror and a wall vent with a fire damper.

“A sophisticated CAD program lets us engineer and test all the stresses and strains, assuring we make the frame strong enough that it won't flex and the tiles won't crack,” says Barrett. And how do they create an exact fit? “We initially visit the site and specify where all the pipe holes should go and work in tolerances so that if things are off a little, it still fits.

“We've even figured out how to make the floors seamless — that's critical, I think,” says Barrett. “So when the hotel room is completed there's no step up or down into the bathroom.”

Eggrock builds the units, then stores them in a warehouse until they're truck-shipped at the customer's request.

Three Eggrock employees accompanied the 20 trucks that carried five bathrooms each at a cost of about $290 a unit to the Cookeville Holiday Inn Express. Eggrock's geographic limit is about 1,500 miles, says Barrett, but plans are in the works to build more manufacturing plants. A lifting system was used to quickly load bathrooms into position at the construction site, by crane. “The first day we installed eight units but by the end of the fourth day they were just flying in.”

Next up for the fledgling company is a 120-unit Marriott SpringHill Suites in New York. “The Marriott corporate folks have been out to audit our facility and they're very excited about it,” says Barrett.


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TROPICAL DELIGHTS

Communing with nature and luxuriating in lavish amenities aren't mutually exclusive, as these two high-end resort bathrooms illustrate. Privacy goes al fresco in the new garden bathrooms (above) at Jumby Bay, a Rosewood Resort located on a private island off the coast of Antigua in the West Indies. At Ikal del Mar Villa Resort and Spa in Playa Xcalacoco in the Riviera Maya, Mexico, recent bathroom renovation of the presidential villa (right) brings out the natural setting of the jungle with lots of rich woods and natural stones. A mahogany base serves as a pedestal for his-and-her translucent circular onyx basins, which are gently illuminated at night.

THE BIG IDEAS

Top 10 Bathroom Horror Stories

  1. Worker no-shows disrupt multiple trades
  2. Chipped bathtubs to rip out
  3. Plumbing leaks run several floors, ruin drywall and cause mold
  4. Crooked and loose tile to replace
  5. Improperly installed fixtures are leaky and loose
  6. Unsightly wallpaper seams annoy guests
  7. Site theft
  8. Excess caulking everywhere ultimately grows mold
  9. Scratches on finish surfaces to repair
  10. Uncertainty about opening date hurts pre-marketing and slows ramp-up

Dressed by Design

Hotel design isn't limited to beds and boardrooms. Increasingly, hotel personnel are included in the mix. That is, their uniforms are being designed to complement the overall look and concept of a property.

For instance, the $10.5-million recent renovation of the Hyatt Regency Boston integrated a uniform makeover into its design plan. Aspects of the new interior design were incorporated into the redesigned uniforms so that personnel synchronized with the property.

“When we decided to renovate our hotel, we new that we needed to include a uniform makeover in our design plan,” says David Nadelman, general manager. “Our outdated uniforms were not going to match our new image. We needed a uniform that wouldn't clash with the new design and disrupt the ambiance.”

The new room attendant uniforms most clearly reflect the hotel's new image. The burgundy color scheme and square buttons were strategically selected for the uniforms to coincide with the colors and square patterns of the guestrooms. Silver accents were added to the uniforms to harmonize with the replacement of brass fixtures with steel ones in the hotel renovation.

The challenge of the uniform makeover was to craft a uniform that would bring the interior design to life, maintains Bill Cronin of Cintas, the uniforms' manufacturer. The hotel staff was actively involved in the creation of the new uniforms. They envisioned the garments that would best fit their new image and helped create them through Cintas' design programs.

FASHION MEETS FUN

Last fall, renowned designer Cynthia Rowley unveiled Kimpton's Hotel Monaco group's new wardrobe, bringing a chic, fashionable update to the boutique chain's staff. All seven Hotel Monacos are set to adopt the new look this summer. Like Hotel Monaco, it's whimsical and playful, yet sophisticated and functional.

Also, due to the diverse locations and climates, Rowley created seasonal pieces for the varying staff positions. The Cynthia Rowley Wardrobe for Kimpton Hotel Monaco includes:

Front Desk — Men will wear a graphite grey suit with a mauve cloud print cargo shirt and women a mauve cloud print blouse with wide legged slacks. Women's blouses are accented with a striped neck trim and waist belt and light pink ballet flats.

Doormen — Doormen will sport plum corduroy blazers, purple rose-print micro-fiber shirts and corduroy pants. Brown fedoras and leather gloves complete the ensembles.

Room Service/Public Area Attendants — Housekeeping and attendants will don comfortable yet chic green rose print micro-fiber dresses and green rose print micro-fiber shirts with navy cotton twill suits and fitted vests.

Room Attendants/Turndown Attendants — Turndown attendants will wear blue cloud-print dresses and cotton shirts with navy cotton twill pants, while room attendants will be comfortable and smart in blue rose tunics and shirts.

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