ADA standards not universal
With increasing emphasis on universal design as the general population ages, more remodelers are encouraging their clients to consider incorporating accessible-design elements into their remodeling projects. R.S. Means’ Residential & Light Commercial Construction Standards offers the following American with Disabilities Act requirements for such designs in bathrooms in commercial buildings:
- Toilet seats should be 17 to 19 inches above the finished floor, the centerline at least 18 inches from the wall, and the flush valve on the open side.
- Grab bars in the toilet area need to bear a minimum of 250 pounds of pressure. They should be 33 to 36 inches AFF, 1 1/2 inches in diameter, 1 1/2 inches from the wall, at least 42 inches long on the side wall and 36 inches long on the rear wall.
- Lavatories should be no higher than 34 inches to the rim and have a minimum of 29 inches of clear knee space below the rim and 27 inches below the bowl.
- The lav bowl should be no more than 6 1/2 inches deep.
- The pipes must be wrapped with insulation to protect users’ legs.
- Faucets must be operable with a closed fist.
Soap dispensers must also be operable with a closed fist and no more than 48 inches AFF for those approached from the front or 54 inches AFF for side approach.
For residential design, however, the ADA standards should not be considered the final word, says Bob Black, CGR and owner of Access of Sarasota (Sarasota, Fla.).
“Remodelers really have to understand the needs of the individual clients before they can begin designing for them,” says Black, who serves on the Remodelors Council’s Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist task force. “What works for someone who is 6-8 obviously won’t work for someone who is 4-10. This is definitely not a matter of one size fits all, but that’s how ADA has to treat it.” Black also recommends considering other personal limitations such as range of motion and upper-body strength when placing grab bars and fixtures. “Absolutely no two cases are the same in accessible design. Remodelers have to start from the beginning with each one.”
New fixtures make a difference
The 1992 Energy Policy Act mandated the manufacturing of more efficient plumbing fixtures and other water-using appliances to conserve water. Standards include shower heads and faucets that use no more than 2.5 gallons per minute, and toilets that use only 1.6 gallons per flush. If homeowners fear the low-flush toilet, they can ask remodelers to remove and reinstall the old one — but you can sell them on the benefit of reducing their water bills.
The American Water Works Association estimates that families in typical American single-family homes with water-saving fixtures and appliances use about 30% less water daily than families in homes without such features.
The table below breaks out the savings by category of equipment: