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Waterless Urinal Firm Makes Splash
GRAND RAPIDS — The Palace of Auburn Hills became the latest high-profile location to embrace Falcon Waterfree Technologies' signature product last month with the installation of 50 no-flush urinals.
Falcon president Jay Troger likes to joke that his product is good luck for sports teams — it's in a number of other recent championship venues as well, including the Rose Bowl (college football), St. Pete Times Forum in St. Petersburg, Fla. (hockey), and Pro Player Stadium in Miami (baseball).
In fact, since adding the Rose Bowl to its client list two years ago, Falcon has amassed a list of thousands of locations that have installed its water-free urinal. Other notables include Six Flags Amusement Park, General Motors Corp., the San Diego Zoo and Penn State University, among many others.
A client list like that helps when considering that the product they're selling is a urinal that doesn't flush.
"We intentionally sought out as early prospects places that would have high visibility and high credibility," Troger said. "It was very intentional, because people will say if it's good enough for the Rose Bowl, this is good enough for my office.
"Not only because the Rose Bowl is a prestigious place but also because people know that at the Rose Bowl there are 100,000 people using the restrooms at the same time at halftime, and if they can handle that, it should be able to handle the traffic in my office."
The waterfree urinal is a streamlined urinal without the crevices created to hide the water holes of flush urinals. The urine flows directly into a cartridge sitting atop the drain, which funnels all urine through a floating liquid sealant. The liquid seal creates an airtight barrier between urine and the restroom to prevent odors from escaping the drain, but allows urine to pass through because the sealant is lighter than water.
The urinal is odor-free with no moving parts and no water waste. The only maintenance is routine cleaning of the fixture and replacement of the cartridge every 7,000 uses, usually two to four times a year.
Although the water savings will more than likely pay for the cost of the urinal in a short amount of time, the idea is still always a hard sell initially.
"Once someone has used one, it becomes a non-issue," Troger said. "I was talking to someone not long ago who said, 'Look, this is a great idea but I can't believe it's not disgusting. I would hate to use one.'"
It turned out that that person had been to a game at the Rose Bowl only weeks before.
Urinals manufactured today are required to use no more than a gallon of water; older urinals use as many as three gallons. The average urination is four ounces, 98 percent of which is water.
"It's an insanely wasteful use of water," Troger said. "You're talking about gallons of water to flush away a couple of grams of uric salt."
On top of that, because there is less water in which bacteria can breed, no cracks for it to hide in, no places for urine to accumulate or the back-blast of a flush that can send bacteria across the length of a restroom, water-free toilets are not only odorless but more hygienic as well.
Although the concept has been around for 50 years, it has only recently begun to earn a significant market share. There are other manufacturers of water-free toilets, but Falcon's is the only model with a cartridge that does not require periodic additions of sealant.
Ditmar Gorges designed the patented cartridge, and the company formed around that invention a little less than a decade ago. The first half of Falcon's existence was spent largely in research and development and marketing trial and error, but the past three years have seen tremendous growth. In fact, Troger likes to think that was when the company actually began. That was when it moved its U.S. headquarters to Grand Rapids, a major new investor came on board, and Troger took over as president.
The international sales office remains in Los Angeles. Although the urinal itself is currently manufactured abroad, Troger is hopeful that the cartridge will soon be manufactured in Michigan.
Albeit from a small base, Falcon's sales this year at the end of the second quarter were six times that of the previous year. Sales for this year are projected to fall in between $8 million and $12 million.
The recent success has come in large part to a marketing agreement with Sloan Valve Co., the industry's leader in urinal valves, both manual and automatic.
"They were our natural enemy," Troger said. "At least we assumed they'd be our natural enemy; our urinals don't have flush valves. But they didn't want to be fighting water conservation."
Sloan has begun to sell its own line of water-free urinals, produced by Falcon under the Sloan banner.
Another partner, Alexander Marketing Services, has aided in the marketing of the product line. The campaign that Alexander created recently won a 2004 Pro-Com Award from the Business Marketing Association, the Award in Excellence for a Total Communications Program under $200,000.
Not only are many of the installations that Falcon serves high profile, but there are some high-profile members on its board as well. Former Vice President Al Gore and former Mayor of Los Angeles Richard Reardon both serve on Falcon's board of directors, drawn to the company through their conservation interests.