Trash room design—carefully consider your waste management program before breaking ground

garbage room floor plan

Regardless of whether your construction project is a high-rise apartment, hospital, office building, or retail shopping center, it’s absolutely critical that trash room design isn’t neglected in your overall design and build process.

Now, reading this, you might think designing with a future waste management program in mind is an obvious consideration, but we assure you—it’s not.

Sure, we get calls from architects who want our thoughts on garbage room floor plans and compactor dimensions. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen nearly often enough.

Far more often, the calls come from contractors searching for stationary and self-contained compactors—after their buildings have been constructed. It’s then that they discover their garbage chutes are located in the corners of their trash rooms, leaving no room for compactors or roll-off containers. In other cases, roll-off trucks don’t have enough space to access the containers to haul them away.

These contractors are then left to pass along the unfortunate news to their new building owners that they’ll be forced to adopt less efficient, more expensive waste management programs. That can make for an ugly call.

Perhaps they’ll be forced to opt for smaller-than-optimal compactors and boxes—or store additional boxes in another location. Either way, that requires more labor to manage. 

Worse, without the space to accommodate a compactor, large buildings that generate lots of waste may be forced to manage loose garbage, missing out on:

  • Waste management cost savings that come with a 5:1 compaction ratio
  • A more controlled waste capture method that prevents trash from falling all over the floor—requiring more labor and creating unsanitary conditions that attract pests
  • Digital fullness monitoring notifications now so common to compactors make managing waste more convenient

So, what should you be thinking about?

Effective trash room design for commercial and residential projects

For starters, it all begins with estimating how much waste you expect to generate at that particular location.

When designing a garbage room in apartment buildings, for instance, you’ll first need to identify the maximum occupancy and then break out the calculator. According to the EPA, Americans generated 4.9 pounds of waste per person per day in 2018. That translates to nearly 0.2 cubic yards of waste per resident each week—and that number has only gone up during the pandemic. Why? Well, we stopped shopping in stores and eating out in restaurants in favor of online shopping and takeout—generating tremendous amounts of residential packaging waste.

Then, you’ll need to identify if the building will manage both dry and wet waste, as well as operate a recycling program. If so and the intent is to purchase both a stationary and self-contained compactor to handle it all, you’ll need to plot out your garbage room floor plan accordingly. 

Additionally, be sure the trash room can accommodate growth, should you need to adjust for unexpected changes, like the increase in residential waste created during the pandemic.

Then, speak with your preferred compactor manufacturer or one of their vendors before you break ground to capture equipment dimensions and any important considerations, like: 

  • Creating enough separation between garbage chutes to accommodate two or more compactors for wet and dry waste or high volume locations
  • Designing a room with enough space for the compactor with a container, plus storage for a second container—a container needs to be hooked to the compactor at all times to prevent garbage from being pumped onto the floor when the first is hauled away for waste disposal
  • Accommodating a garbage room door large enough to easily move containers in and out of the space
  • Creating enough room for the roll-off truck to access the container—being mindful of overhead clearance, as well
  • Ensuring your driveway is wide enough to support a waste truck, otherwise, you may need to invest in waste caddies to prevent injuries when moving garbage to an accessible location

Designing an efficient, effective trash room to support your residential, retail, or business community isn’t hard—provided you give it the early attention it deserves.

Need a little help?

Reach out to us. We’d be happy to show you some typical trash room designs and put you in touch with the folks best placed to advise you on your blueprint.

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