The Portland Loo

February 18, 2009
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img_6413 A unique solution to a universal problem.”

The Portland Loo is the City of Portland’s response to the need for a cost-effective solution to providing night life patrons and homeless citizens with a safe, sanitary 24-hour a day toilet.

According to former City Commissioner Randy Leonard, who spearheaded the effort along with the Portland Water Bureau, “The Portland Loos are meant to be a unique solution to a universal problem.  Everyone should have somewhere to take care of business with a little privacy and a little dignity.”

The City of Portland holds the patent and copyright to the  Loo and is marketing the units to other cities. In 2012, a Portland Loo was installed in Victoria, British Columbia.  Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services has responsibility for the Portland Loo program.

Durable, functional, sustainable and affordable.

loo-grayscale

The design of the Loo is ingenious in terms of CPTED (Crime Prevention through Environmental Design).   Louvres at the top and bottom facilitate natural surveillance by passers by.  The louvers at the bottom at angled to provide adequate privacy while allowing law enforcement to verify the number of feet. inside the unit.

The sturdy Loo has stainless steel wall panels mounted to a slim profile steel structure.  It weights a fraction of a typical restroom and can be delivered on site as a complete enclosure.

The unit’s simple button activated hand washing station is mounted on the exterior to promote shorter use times and serve the general pedestrian population.  Hand sanitizer is available inside.

The entire unit can be entirely off grid, lit by solar-powered LED fixtures, or pre-wired for 115 volt AC power.  At night a gentle light washes the exterior until it is occupied, at which time the interior light activate and the exterior light dim.  Electrical components, solar batteries, and maintenance equipment are housed in the cabinet at the rear of the unit.   Artwork on the door panel links the Loo to its neighborhood and conveys a sense of community ownership.

The Portland Loo design and production team.

The Portland Loo was designed by Curtis Banger following thorough research on user needs, community attitudes and materials engineering.  Banger was initially engaged in 2007 by the Public Restroom Implementation Team in the Office of Mayor Tom Potter.    Portland’s Madden Fabrication, headed by businessman and neighborhood activist Greg Madden, produced the prototype unit.   CPTED experts from the Portland Police Bureau Central Precinct advised on crime proofing the restroom.   Portland Water Bureau Administrator David Shaff and Capital Project Manager David Gray have been closely involved throughout production and current operations.

Portland Loo designer Curtis Banger with Madden Fabrication's Greg Madden.  Jennifer Day of the Portland Water Bureau is in the background.

The First Flush of thousands

The prototype Portland Loo was installed in late 2008 on NW Glisan Street between 5th and 6th Avenues adjacent to the Greyhound Station.  It was unveiled on December 8 to enormous media attention.  Then- Commissioner-now-Mayor, Sam Adams took the first flush to the cheers of more than a hundred neighbors, including members of PHLUSH.    In the years since its installation, Loo #1 has enjoyed both extremely heavy use and the watchful eyes of the community.    A daily count of users is estimated to be between 300 and 500.   People are often seen waiting outside and motorists sometimes pull into a limited time parking space adjacent to use the facility.

Videos and Media 

“Portland Loo, a public toilet that skips to the head of its class“.  Los Angeles Times. Aug. 29, 2012.  (Front page!)

Portland markets its solar-powered public toilet.”  By Steven Dubois.  San Francisco Chronicle.  April 14, 2012.

“People Can’t Wait”  According to Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan, Travis Shields’ short documentary is “a charming film about an unusual subject: the need for public toilets.”

A Portland Loo for you?

Information about the Portland Loo can be found here and here.  For more information about purchasing a Portland Loo, contact Scott Turpen or Anne Petersen at the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services.   If your citizen group would like to advocate for public toilets in your area, see  Public Toilet Advocacy  and learn how to Protect your Toilet Rights.

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    Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human, or PHLUSH, is an all-volunteer advocacy group based in Portland's Old Town Chinatown. We collaborate with grassroots organizations, environmental activists, planners, architects, code officials and city managers. We receive support from the Old Town Chinatown Community Association and Neighbors West-Northwest. PHLUSH is a member of the World Toilet Organization and a partner in the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.

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