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Modify or Replace? Recreation Facility Restrooms and ADA Compliance


As part of your ADA Compliance Checklist an important amenity is your restroom or comfort station. In some recreation facilities, the restroom facilities were installed prior to the 1991 ADA code changes and do not meet current standards. In other cases, ADA improvements such as grab bars and adjustment of fixtures to the correct heights may have been made, but the restroom still does not meet ADA requirements for wheelchair clearances or have fixtures that do not meet structural strengths.

What we typically find is these modifications were completed based on user need, but not thought about holistically and are often not fully inclusive. Your checklist is an important tool to not only make sure you are compliant, but will also help you evaluate the cost effectiveness of a remodel vs. a full replacement of your facilities.

Some of the most necessary changes are based around minimum clearances. Typically, the privacy walls, walkways, doorways, and partitions within the restroom do not meet code and are structural in nature, requiring additional engineering and construction costs. Once you start changing the structure, not only can the cost increase dramatically, but the original aesthetics of the building may change as well; The roof line, facade, and other materials may not fit in with the character of your site.  

Some of the most costly ADA improvements can be:  

Privacy walls that are not wide enough to accommodate wheelchair turning movements within the restroom or stalls are one common costly error. Adjusting the accessibility of these stalls often has a domino effect as other stalls as well as soap dispensers, sinks, mirrors, and in some cases exterior walls may have to be moved. This can lead to an increase in structural, plumbing, and repair costs if not planned properly for the space.

Fixtures that do not meet current standards are also a primary source of cost when renovating restroom facilities. Often, they do not meet the various height requirements, do not have accessible handles, or do not meet structural strength requirements. Removing and replacing these necessary fixtures can often add considerable cost to your project.

If you choose to do a complete replacement of your facilities, manufacturers such as CXT and Romtec have pre-fabricated restroom and comfort stations that are ADA compliant. Often, they provide the additional benefit of being able to match your facilities aesthetics as you can work with the manufacturer to select materials, roofing, siding, and facade colors.

When you start the evaluations of your restroom facility, make sure your ADA Compliance Checklist is up to date not only with the current ADA standards but also building codes, as some counties may require additional plumbing or electrical improvements. Having a good understanding of the overall costs can make your decision to either remodel or construct an entirely new structure easier. Don’t forget you have options! A remodel isn’t always the best and most cost effective choice and restroom manufactures have evolved over the years to better accommodate your compliance needs.

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Topics: Energy, Urban Parks & Recreation

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