The addition of the plywood core is critical for a few reasons, says Multanen. First, it acts as a heavy-duty stiffener. “A resident isn’t going to stand in the shower, push against the wall and be able to flex it,” says Multanen. In addition, the integral wood backing allows property owners to easily add universal design features, such as grab bars and seats, without searching for studs. Finally, the core provides noise reduction from the drumming of water spray on the shower walls and sound insulation from adjacent bathrooms, an important feature in multi-family housing.
According to Multanen, there were three primary challenges associated with the renovation. First, high-rise buildings include fire chases – fire-rated shaft enclosures designed to limit the spread of fire from unit to unit. In the Manning Apartments, the fire chase is in close proximity to the wet wall, behind which the bathroom plumbing is located. Bestbath consulted with the architect and design team to ensure the plumbing didn’t penetrate the fire chase. The manufacturer created a special mold for a four-inch inset, directly behind the shower wall, to contain the plumbing.
The second challenge concerned the concrete slab. “We had to carefully position the shower drains to avoid hitting all of the additional reinforcement in the slab building,” says Multanen. “Obviously, the CHA didn’t want 199 unique showers. So we worked to find a universal drain position that would avoid the reinforcing in the concrete and still allow for a barrier-free entry.” The 60-inch shower opening is nearly even with the bathroom floor for accessibility for disabled residents.
Finally, the heating and exhaust ducts run directly over the shower. The ducts needed to be covered, but remain accessible for maintenance. Bestbath fabricated a composite shower dome with a recessed maintenance access panel.
Design details were decided upon well in advance, with input from everyone involved. “Our engineering team worked closely with the project engineers because we are the composites experts and they know the mechanics of the building,” says Multanen.
This kind of teamwork is common in architecture products. In addition to working with engineers, Bestbath also partners with architects to ensure its products meet specific code requirements. “Our sales reps are bathing code experts and can help architects really refine what they need and want in projects,” says Multanen. The company’s products are often specified by architects and engineers.