Building Code Issues: Code Changes and Standard Plans

By Steven R Winkel, FAIA, CASp and Kerwin Lee, AIA, CASp

Steve Says: How many of you have standard details for single-accommodation toilet rooms? These may function as separate men’s and women’s rooms, or may also be “unisex” toilets. It is good not having to reinvent toilet room designs each time one is needed. It helps to have all of the many interrelated accessibility provisions included in the stock rooms. However, such standard plans need to be kept up to date to respond to changes in codes and standards.

An excellent example of this is the change from Chapter 11B requirements in the 2010 California Building Code (CBC) for toilet room clearances between water closets and lavatories and what is now required in the new 2013 CBC. The old code required 28 inches between the edge of the WC and the edge of the lavatory.

The new code is based on the 2010 revisions to the ADA Standards. These provisions require a 60-inch wide x 56- inch deep clear area that the lavatory may not intrude upon. This area is wider than the 28 inch space between fixtures required in the older code. Thus, your standard single toilet room should have gotten about 4 inches wider per the new code. Have you made those changes? If you are using old criteria that were compliant with the 2010 CBC you are directing construction of non-code-compliant single accommodation toilet rooms under the new code.

Kerwin Says: Do not be confused by figures showing a lavatory in the required clear space. This only applies to residential units covered under Chapter 11B. This is also different from Chapter 11A requirements associated with water closet clearances. The key question related to this code change, how does this affect existing toilet facilities and the elements associated with path of travel in an alteration, Section 11B-202.4. Exception 2 of this section provides an out to compliance with the 2013 CBC/2010 Standards. If the existing toilet facility complies with the previous code (2010 CBC), no changes are required. The burden of proof will be yours.

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