Accessibility - Things to Know When Remodeling Your Hospital

Accessibility - Things to Know When Remodeling Your Hospital

In my capacity as the Chairman of the Hospital Building Safety Board I have occasion to interact with code changes and their implications. Of particular interest right now is not so much a code change, but rather a potential implication created by the adoption of the 2016 California Building Code (CBC).

The Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) is tasked with ensuring that hospital projects meet the criteria of the CBC including the accessibility regulations contained in Chapter 11B. Of significant importance when remodeling is the concept that not only does the remodeled area need to be compliant with the current accessibility regulations, but so does the “path of travel” to the area of alteration. The primary accessible path of travel includes a primary entrance to the building, toilet and bathing facilities, drinking fountains, public telephones and signs. 

Having a well thought out plan of how to achieve accessibility compliance is essential to maintaining the project’s budget and schedule, as unexpected “surprises” during the OSHPD plan review process, or worse, during construction will significantly impact both.

Often overlooked are elements of the path of travel that have been previously upgraded under a prior edition of the CBC. The thought is that if it has been previously upgraded, then it meets the intent of the code. While this concept may appear to make sense, it could wind up causing significant trouble during the life of a project. 

Chapter 11B of the CBC in Section 11B-202.4 under exception 2 allows that if the elements of a path of travel are in compliance with the requirements of the immediately preceding edition of the CBC then they will not be required to be upgraded to the current edition of the CBC. This is pretty good news, except that we have just entered into a new code cycle. 

The 2016 CBC is now in effect, which means that the 2013 CBC is the immediately preceding edition. The implication of this is that the 2013 CBC significantly altered how accessibility requirements were to be provided. 

For example, the regulations for clearances at toilets in single occupancy toilet rooms have greatly changed. The 2010 CBC allowed for a space between a side wall and a lavatory to be approximately 4’-6” wide. The 2013 CBC and the 2016 CBC require this same space to be 5”-0” wide. The area for the toilet that was compliant under the 2010 CBC is no longer compliant under the current code, and by extension, the toilet room itself may not be large enough.

By planning ahead and understanding the existing conditions relative to the code requirements, the potential for maintaining the budget and schedule is greatly enhanced.

Bruce Macpherson, Principal
Puchlik Design Associates