Having two lavatories in a bathroom can be a luxury—especially when you have two people that need to use it at the same time. The thoughtful designer, however, might not realize that adding a second sink to a bathroom in multifamily housing can have other design implications, since multifamily dwellings are covered by the Fair Housing Act Accessibility Guidelines.
Requirement 7 of the section on Usable Bathrooms requires all fixtures in an Option A bathroom to have a clear floor space. For lavatories, the clear floor space can be positioned for a parallel approach, or a forward approach can be provided with the use of removable cabinets.
However, when there are multiple lavatories in an Option B bathroom (Specification B), only one must have clear floor space. As noted in the above figure, this would require parallel access to the bathtub (and 34” counters), but might be a good solution for adding a second lav.
Wall bases can be both practical and aesthetically pleasing, providing a wall protection from damage or adding a distinctive architectural touch to an otherwise boring, flat plane. But, when it comes to accessibility, the wall base needs to be considered when measuring the clear width of an accessible route or the clear floor space at elements.
Since a wall base can mean an offset of an extra inch or so, a hallway that is designed to be 36” wide but has a wall base lining each side, might actually turn out to be about 34” wide after finishes are put in. The minimum footprint of a wheelchair—the measurement for clear floor space—is 30”x48”, so the critical measurement should be taken from the ground where the wheels will be.
This can also be important when designing for the minimum clear floor space at elements, such as in a drinking fountain alcove. The comment in the photo accounts for forward approach to the accessible fountain (and the water bottle filler), but it doesn’t account for the ¾” wall base. The 30” wide minimum requirement includes toe clearance.
Sometimes the basics of accessibility require a little extra thought about the realities of how a person might use something.
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According to the United Nations Population Fund, one in eight people in the world is age 60 or older—and the number is steadily growing. The significance of this overall aging of the population is reflected in bathroom remodeling trends reported by the AIA’s Home Trends Survey for the fourth quarter of 2016. Based on responses from more than 500 residential architecture firms, the survey indicates that accessibility is the primary concern when it comes to remodeling bathrooms. Thinking about their future needs, homeowners are choosing to spend money on making their bathrooms more accessible and easier to use.
Design for aging-in-place considers the importance of maintaining personal independence within
the built environment, while addressing changing functional needs. Simple bathroom features like door-less or no threshold showers have become a design trend—not just an accommodation for the elderly and those with mobility difficulties to enter or exit the shower compartment without assistance.
In addition to making houses more usable for an older population, designing so that homeowners can stay in their homes as they age contributes to the longevity of a house. Given the increasing concern about sustainability and the Green movement in architecture, design professionals are now recognizing the value of incorporating accessibility features into design projects.