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Improving on Code Requirements

*This post is sponsored by Bobrick Washroom Equipment, Inc.

Universal design is defined by the idea that the design of products and environments should be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible. For an architect striving for universal design for a commercial building project, some areas may be more complex than others due to the types of human actions that take place in them.

For example, doorways: a variety of movements are required to approach a typical door, manipulate the hardware, pass through the doorway and close the door. For users of all abilities, having an adequate amount of space to accomplish these tasks is helpful. For those who utilize rigid equipment to assist with mobility—such as a walker or a wheelchair—adequate space becomes even more essential.

Accessible toilet compartments are another area that must accommodate a wide variety of movements, such as getting on and off the toilet, as well as reaching for and using a seat cover, toilet tissue, grab bar and waste receptacle. These actions all require bending, reaching, sitting and standing. Having all of these items easily accessible with minimal reaching can help mitigate the impact of these complexities on peoples’ lives.

Open to Interpretation and Circumstance

Design professionals often must contend with multiple building and accessibility codes, including federal, state and even municipal requirements, when designing a restroom. Depending on the project, interpretations may vary and the perceived dominant code may differ. For example, the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (ADAS) doesn’t require vertical grab bars in accessible toilet compartments, but 2009 and 2017 ANSI A117.1 and most state codes do.

Conflicting codes can cause confusion and difficulties with compliance for architects and designers. For example, the ADAS requires toilet tissue dispensers are located with a center line that is 7" to 9" in front of the nosing of the toilet, but ANSI A117.1 requires the dispenser centerline be located between 24" and 42" from the back corner. Satisfying these sometimes-conflicting requirements can be difficult. From an ergonomics perspective, it is preferable to adhere to the ADA procedure because it locates the dispenser relative to the front of the toilet, which is a reasonable proxy for where a person might be reaching. Meanwhile, dispensers can actually be located up to 48" high. However, for many sitting persons, reaching up to 48" is not convenient; reaching between 18" and 36" is easier.

Since conflicts between codes can be a source of frustration, products that address all possible relevant codes in the jurisdiction and improve upon code minimums can help make product selections easier for design professionals.

Hard to Get Wrong

To help architects better manage differences between codes and interpretations, some manufacturers have stepped up by engineering products with all possible prevailing codes in mind.

Bobrick’s new horizontal, combination dispenser-disposal units are a prime example—their B-3091, B-3092, B-30919and B-30929 units, which combine toilet tissue dispensers, toilet seat cover dispensers and waste disposals in a single stainless steel unit, are oriented horizontally to enable maximum compliance with 2010 ADAS, as well as 2009 and 2017 ICC A117.1 standards and the 2019 California Building Code.

The ADAS requires that grab bars have 1-1/2" absolute wall clearance between the edge of grab bar and the surface of the wall or panel. While the ADAS apply everywhere, they may not be strictly or uniformly inspected, interpreted or enforced. For the 46 states (all but California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Texas) that have adopted the ICC A117.1-2009 Standard, code language allows dispensers to project 1/4" within the minimum required spaces above, behind and below the grab bar as an alternate design to the ADA.

However, compliance with ADAS and ANSI is not always synonymous with functionality. Although compliant, some solutions that would satisfy both codes are awkward, such as those that require a higher or lower reach—for example, as low as 15" or as high as 48" above the finish floor.

While traditional vertical toilet compartment combination units reduce the 1 ½" absolute clearance between the grab bar and the wall required by the ADAS, Bobrick’s new horizontal combination units are engineered to help architects and designers achieve full compliance: mounting the unit 1 ½" minimum below the grab bar does not interfere with the wall spacing behind the grab bar, complying with 2010 ADAS as well as 2009 and 2017 ICC A117.1. Reducing the grab bar wall clearance from 1 ½" by 3/16" in front of the recessed unit to 1-5/16" does not reduce the accessibility and usability of the grab bar or the accessories. The safety rationale for the 1 ½" wall clearance—prevent injury caused by forearm and elbow being trapped between the grab bar and the wall or panel—has not been compromised.

Meanwhile, the centerlines of the tissue and seat cover dispensers are 7" to 9" in front of the leading edge of the toilet, which is also ADA compliant. Finally, providing waste disposal on the sidewall adjacent to the toilet tissue dispenser and in front of the rear wall of the compartment or room complies with the 2019 California Building Code.

Minimizing the grab bar interference and limiting a high reach allowed Bobrick to provide a more foolproof specification option when installed properly, improving upon code minimums and providing a more preferred, ergonomic, universal result.

Visit to learn more about the B-3091, B-3092, B-30919and B-30929 units—and always consult with an accessibility expert, such as a Bobrick architectural representative.

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