GIBS gets dream loo

GIBS gets dream loo

By Eamonn Ryan

Many breakthroughs have been made in building water systems for commercial buildings. Water conservation can be incorporated into a design, even if it is just at the fixture level. This was the goal set by Burgess Plumbing when client GIBS (the Gordon Institute of Business Science) called it to its Sandton’s Illovo Campus.

GIBS called in Burgess Plumbing to renovate and upgrade their high-traffic bathrooms in a turnkey solution. GIBS’ bathrooms serve between two and three hundred students at any time, so energy- and water-efficiency was critical to the design.

Burgess leadBathroom showing touchless mixer, close to soap dispenser, towel drier and disposal units. Image credit: Burgess Plumbing

This involved not just plumbing, says Darryl Brainin, director of Burgess Plumbing, but all construction, painting, tiling, partitioning and electrical for a total cost of R1.1-million. There were structural issues which required an architect,
JP Zeitsman of Hub Architects, to assist with the design. “The emphasis was on water and energy efficiency, and in the case of lighting everything was LED with sensors (which is economical to install in bathrooms which are not in permanent use), and mechanical extraction as there are no windows or natural light or ventilation in the men’s room,” explains Brainin.

“They insisted on the best in all materials, sparing no expense for their MBA students.”

Burgess has a long-standing relationship with GIBS and consequently the job was not a public tender. They cater for all their plumbing requirements and were available to assist on a large renovation such as this.

Burgess2The touch-free urinals showing the Propelair cistern. Image credit: Burgess Plumbing

One of the challenges of the job was the large number of functions GIBS hosts for its students and the business community, with the construction noise factor limiting the hours they could work during the day – or at least they had to work without making noise between 9 and 12. This threatened to push out the time line, “Though we managed to meet it in the end while working around their work times,” says Brainin.

The design involved breaking the wall between the men’s and women’s toilets so as to allow the women’s nine cubicles and the men three, with one disabled cubicle.

Burgess3 1


The cistern is approved by Agrement SA and is an integrated air and water system.


They insisted on the best in all materials, sparing no expense for their MBA students. I spec’d everything for them, providing samples of light fittings, quartz tiles and sanitaryware. We ultimately used: Duravit urinals with Geberit battery powered sensors Flushmasters, because of their energy and water efficiency and hygiene. It flushes automatically without having to be touched – a valuable feature post-Covid-19. No water goes to waste. We installed Grohe battery operated sensor taps on the basins. Steiner are the main provider for all the accessories, such as hand-towel rails, soap dispensers and air fresheners.

“The client asked us to source a basin in which the water wouldn’t splash all over the users as they wash their hands, which is one reason we chose Duravit: the tap is fitted in the basin so your hand is in the basin when you wash, reducing splashing. The quartz tops were chosen for its aesthetic look.”

One of the features of the design was not to install air driers, instead opting for paper towels which users can then also use to open the door and so not touch anything potentially harbouring germs or viruses, as the bin is beyond the door. “This is because some people don’t wash their hands thoroughly, or dry them, and then touch the door handle. GIBS was very aware of this long before the coronavirus.

“We employed a builder, Reuben Gouws, with whom we have a close relationship for all the construction work based on our design. From a plumbing and electrical point of view, pre-planning is essential to ensure everything is plumb and heights are all correct, as that makes the finishing easier.”

Water-saving Propelair toilets

For the client, the main attraction of the design was the Propelair toilets, says Brainin: “Water saving was one of the major requirements of the project, with more than 200 people going through their bathrooms every day. We installed our Propelair UK toilets with sensors for flushing (for which Burgess is the sole distributor in South Africa) which flush just one and a half litres in each of the 13 toilets, using new technology which employs both a water pump and an air pump in the cistern. This forces the waste from the bowl when the lid is closed, creating a vacuum in that bowl. The outlet pipe is also reduced from 110mm to 60mm which forces everything through. Agrément standards have now been written for the product and we have an Agrément certificate that it has being tested.”

“The client asked us to source a basin in which the water wouldn’t splash all over the users as they wash their hands.”

DarrylDarryl Brainin, director of Burgess Plumbing.

“This product is relatively new in South Africa, as we have been distributing it for just over two years. It is currently only viable in commercial buildings which have a high throughput – they are too costly for the occasional use of a private residence. It is typically concealed in a bathroom behind a false panel or in a duct because unlike a traditional cistern it has electrics associated with it and therefore requires power to a battery which ‘trickle charges’ it. The battery lasts up to three days and so continues to work even during load shedding and access to the internal components for servicing is critical.

“The product is gaining traction among businesses that are environmentally sensitive, but it also saves money through reduced water consumption. The payback time entirely depends on usage but can be anything from one to two years. 

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