The Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center recently completed the installation of new toilets in every one of its 1,298 guest rooms. The Kohler toilets were designed to correct the No. 1 complaint from hotel guests: toilets that flushed incompletely or not at all on upper stories of the 73-story Marriott, Detroit's tallest structure.
The toilet problem and others like it are common to many tall structures, says Bill Hartman, managing partner with the Detroit office of the Gensler architectural firm. Gravity, vacuums within a pipe and related phenomena all play a role.
Don Vollmar, Kohler's director of engineering for sanitary products, said the RenCen's original design might have been at fault. Ventilation shafts containing the plumbing lines may have experienced unintended pressures that hampered the flow inside the pipes.
"Think of the water flow out of your toilet bowl. If pressure is pushing back on that water flow, you need a toilet to overcome that pressure," he said.
To prevent its business from tanking, the Marriott purchased all-new Kohler Cimarron Comfort Height toilets for every room. The flush valve that empties water into the bowl is an industry-leading 3.25 inches wide. Kohler also re-engineered the design of the chambers funneling the water to and from the bowl.
The result is a faster, more powerful siphoning action, in which gravity pulls the waste material down and away.
Matt Jones, the Marriott's director of marketing, said the new model has ended the complaints.
"I'm not your toilet expert," he said last week, but the new model "addresses the flush issue."
Faulty toilets are just the latest in a long line of nagging complaints to bedevil Detroit's most visible and important building. Since the RenCen opened in the 1970s, Detroiters have moaned about its labyrinthine layout and lack of access to the riverfront just behind it.
After General Motors bought the RenCen to make it its headquarters in the late 1990s, it poured $500 million into correcting many of those problems, including a new circulation system and new front and rear entrances, as well as a riverside plaza. It spent millions to upgrade the Marriott.
Those upgrades will continue, Jones said this week. Besides the new toilets and redesigned public restrooms, the hotel's $2-million makeover this year has included guest beds.
The new beds feature thicker, softer, fluffier mattresses, pillows and bed linens. Jones says the new beds are designed to guarantee guests a restful night's sleep — even in the middle of Super Bowl week.
The Marriott will serve as the National Football League's headquarters hotel for Super Bowl XL on Feb. 5. It will house NFL staff and operations, as well as some of the 3,000 print, broadcast and Internet journalists who'll cover the game.