Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Building

One of my favourite things about my new job is the building. It really makes a difference going to work in a beautiful building instead of some crumbling concrete bunker.

The best architectural feature is the spiral staircase. Sure, it's dangerous, and expensive, but it really inspires me to walk up the 12 flights of stairs every day instead of taking the elevator.

And the views are fantastic once you get to the top. Note the new 61 story Shangri-la building changing Vancouver's downtown skyline. But even in the booming 2005 real-estate market, there were no takers for the 17 million dollar penthouse.

I was about to ride the elevator last week when one of my fellow researchers made a dash for the doors. Attempting to be nice, I reached down to push the hold door open button. But in my panicked haste, I couldn't figure out which button to push. Now initially, I blamed myself. At first the symbols seem decent, arrows pointing in close the doors, arrows pointing out open the doors. But with further thought, I blame the button designers. I think the problem is that the open door symbol is too compact, making it look like closed elevator doors, whereas the close door symbol is broad and open. I didn't mind the old fashioned text versions, but if you were going to make a symbol, maybe the design below would have been better.

My only real complaint about the building is the energy-saving bathrooms. As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of old-growth forests, and I'd love to keep them around, but I feel that maybe having two-sided printers at work would be a better approach than these frustrating toilet-paper dispensers.

As you can see, there's a hard plastic tab attached to the spindle and a metal post sticking in to its path. Thus, when you pull on the toilet paper roll, you can pull off exactly 1 sheet before the tab hits the peg, and rotation of the roll stops. A three sheet dispenser I could have handled, but 1 sheet? Unsurprisingly, the dispensers on our floor have been modified. The plastic is very hard and the post is quite strong, so I believe someone must have actually come to work with a chisel to knock out the metal peg, so great was his fury at the energy-efficient toilet paper dispensers.

And then there's the waterless urinals. These things should be great for a public building. There's a magic fluid in the drain that lets urine flow down through the pipe, but blocks odours from coming back up. Clean them nightly, and you save hundreds of litres per day, with little complaints from the users.
The problem is that all designers of waterless urinals have attempted to make them look space age and modern and elegant by using smooth curves and eliminating harsh lips. But those old square frusty 50s designs served a purpose. The lips kept the urine in the urinal. The smooth arcs on waterless urinals seem to form a perfect parabola directing urine straight back at the pee-er. Consequently, there tends to be a large region of aerosol splashback surrounding the floor of the urinal. As this spashback doesn't drain through the magic liquid, the bathrooms start to smell of stale piss.

All of this is unfortunate, because I highly support government mandated building codes for energy efficiency. I think compared with volunteerism, forcing good insulation, geothermal or deep water heating and air-conditioning, and water saving toilets and taps, would be effective at dealing with resource scarcity and climate change. Sadly, hateful energy efficient bathrooms will only turn public opinion against conservation.

1 comment:

Nature Nerd said...

Ok, this is one of my favourite curmudgeonly Bumbly blog postings! Plus it proves that there is no reason not to blog just because I haven't been on any adventures.

I love the spiral staircase (and nice shot of it too), that would totally motivate me to walk up stairs as well. And I'm rather jealous of the view from the office - is that from YOUR office? Then I'm really really really jealous.

Excellent new elevator door buttons. I think your EXACT drawings should be used in all elevators. They would make me smile.

I have never seen such a tortuous toilet paper dispenser. I agree - 3 sheets would be ok, 1 = maddening.

Ok, now I must get the camera out and find something random to blog about.