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All You Never Wanted to Know About Bathrooms

It may come as a surprise that bathrooms are among the spaces with the highest concentration of building and accessibility mandated requirements. Today’s bathrooms must be designed to serve not only common people, but also persons facing physical challenges in their day to day lives. In order to comply with the provisions of ICC/ANSI A117.1 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, designers must pay careful attention to every aspect of the space. Wheelchair clearances, reach ranges (for things like towel dispensers, hand dryers, etc.), faucet controls, and even mirror heights are all outlined in the codes.

A delicate balance must be achieved between the code requirements and the look and feel of the space. A successful bathroom design complies with the codes and also enhances the user experience within a facility.

Recently I’ve had the privilege of re-thinking the bathrooms for dormitory buildings on a local college campus as part of an initiative to provide improved quality of life for students. Designed in the late 50s, the existing bathrooms featured an open space for sinks and toilets and another open space for showers. At some point, they were retrofit with partitions to separate the toilets and showers, but they were completely inaccessible to someone in a wheelchair and had fallen into disrepair. I imagine many prisons had better bathrooms… and they reminded me of my college dormitory experience.


The new bathroom design provides a much higher level of privacy for the residents. Toilet, Sink, and Shower areas have been separated into their own spaces. New toilet and shower partitions extend almost floor to ceiling and feature jamb details that overlap the door and frame, resulting in a gap free condition eliminating sight lines. The showers feature a changing area outside of the curtain providing a transition space.

A sophisticated materials palette rounds out the design for the new spaces, and will go a long way to improve the feel of the dormitory buildings.