It’s rare that intelligence and toilets are mentioned in the same sentence, unless it’s a joke about the quality of ideas one has while spending time there. But a recent competition for innovative municipal programs recently provided the perfect opportunity to do just that.
EfficientGov, a newsletter focused solely on municipal government, bestowed its 2012 “Intelligence” Award on a public bathroom located in the city of Portland, Ore. Patented by the city, the “Portland Loo” is billed as a cost-effective public restroom that provides maximum function in minimal space, and is being marketed to other cities with public bathrooms that are, well, in the crapper.
Let’s face it, public restrooms don’t have the best reputation. Most are austere, poorly lit, and contain an odor that leaves something to be desired. On the flip side, everyone has to go, and it’s only fair that everyone should have access to a restroom that’s private and safe.
Portland city leaders and now EfficientGov, too, believe the Loo offers the optimal balance of personal privacy and public access. With its stainless steel wall panels mounted on a slim-profile steel structure, it’s said to weigh a fraction of a typical restroom, making it easier to install in high traffic locations. The Loo’s stainless steel walls are covered with anti-graffiti coating, and it is lit by 100 percent solar-powered LED lights equipped with motion sensors for energy conservation. The Loo also features louvered panels that allow for surveillance by the community (without sacrificing privacy) and an exterior hand washing station that helps to deter illicit activity.
“The Portland Loo symbolizes intelligent municipal government,” said Barry Greenfield, editor and publisher of EfficientGov and a selectman in Swampscott, Mass. “The city created a patentable product solving a problem for all municipalities, and similarly, their sales initiative to other cities is an important innovation in government. Generating new revenue helps to alleviate taxpayer reliance. The Loo shows how government can become a profitable resource rather than a net spender.”
The Loo hasn’t been without controversy in Portland. A neighborhood raised a ruckus about having one plunked down in its midst, and a Portland cop was quoted calling a Loo “Randy Leonard’s crack house.” That was a reference to the city commissioner, pictured above, who conceived of the Loo, and to the activities said to sometimes occur behind the Loo’s louvered panels. Leonard received a measure of vindication last fall when the British Columbia city of Victoria signed on to buy a Loo in a deal that would reportedly grossed the city $40,000.
EfficientGov will present the award to Portland officials at the 2012 Municipal Evolution Tour event in Seattle on July 19. Full details are at available at EfficientGov.