Guest Post: Code change is the best way to increase restroom availability

September 24, 2009
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By Robert Brubaker, Program Manager, American Restroom Association

Code change is the best way to increase restroom availability.
090809rb 8:23 am
090809cm   1:45 pm   546 words
A State code expert from Kansas,  Eirene Oliphant has submitted potty parity code change proposals that address some of the ‘long line’ problems women face waiting to use public restrooms.  State delegates will take up her proposals at the International Code Council’s Code Development Hearings in Baltimore, Maryland in late October 2009.   It would be very helpful if you would contact your state legislators to ask that they support these simple, sensible changes in the plumbing code.
Finding an available restroom is an issue that speaks to women.  We [They/Women] live longer, experience pregnancy and menstruation, and are more likely to be caregivers of children or elders who also need toilet facilities. As researchers such as the University of Illinois’ Kathryn Anthony have demonstrated, moreover, women simply require more time, thanks to anatomy and clothing.    This explains why often lines form at the women’s restroom but not at the men’s.
Male:Female Ratios
There are two ways to address this issue of Potty Parity.   One is the establishment of female:male ratio for the number of fixtures.   For example, New York City requires twice as many toilets for women as men.
Legislation requiring a female:male ratio usually conflicts with existing State-mandated building codes, which set a number of required fixtures based on occupancy and use.  Ratios, in fact, can result in an undersupply of toilets for women.
Plumbing Code Change
A more promising way to achieve potty parity is through code change.  Changing the plumbing code can mandate building design with restrooms that meet the evolving needs of contemporary society.
Plumbing codes, a subset of the building code, traditionally require minimum number of toilet fixtures and are based on complex formulas and tables.   Older code typically mandates an equal number of fixtures for women and men rather than an optimal number based on research. This requires amendment.  Furthermore, code needs to be updated to address surge periods in toilet use at large venues, such as the 7th inning stretch at a baseball stadium.   Most states also need to adopt code to rectify problems women face in small stores or restrooms with a single women’s toilet.  While attending to two toddlers, a mother may lock others out for 10 minutes or so, causing queuing at the door.
Ask your state legislators to support code change that brings real potty parity.
Most states have adopted either the International Plumbing Code (IPC) or the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC).  Three proposed code changes, if adopted at the state level, will bring relief to women.
Require that ‘minimum number of toilet fixtures’ in the latest building code provide the needed toilet facilities for everyone.  The proposed 2009 version of both the IPC and UPC should eliminate queuing and rectify remaining weaknesses in the building code for popular public venues. (For a restaurant that can legally accommodate up to 150 people, the IPC currently requires only 1 toilet for women (the UPC requires 3).  For a store with an occupancy of 1000, the IPC still mandates only 1 female toilet (the UPC requires 4 to 8).
Ensure that even older buildings to have the ‘minimum number of toilet fixtures’ required in the latest code.
Increase the use of  unisex or family toilets as these provide intrinsic potty parity.   Small restaurants, for example, usually have .  Making both the one men’s and the one women’s in a restaurant unisex would make it less likely that anyone would have to wait.
Want more Information?
Find contact information for state legislators http://www.votesmart.org/search.php?search=22306&x=0&y=0#current
The proposed changes and the case for them, in the necessarily technical language of codes, is available at http://americanrestroom.org/parity
The Code Development Hearings and the 2009 International Code Council Annual Conference  http://www.eshow2000.com/iccbwi/splash.html
Examples of building code implementation and a discussion of distortions caused by ‘ratio’ legislation are found in “New Ballpark Statistic: Stadium’s Toilet Ratio,” a New York Times front page story on April 12, 2009

A State code expert from Kansas,  Eirene Oliphant,  has submitted potty parity code change proposals that address some of the ‘long line’ problems women face waiting to use public restrooms.  State delegates will take up her proposals at the International Code Council’s Code Development Hearings in Baltimore, Maryland in late October 2009.  Now is the time to contact state legislators to urge support for these simple, sensible changes in the plumbing code.

ARA logo

Finding an available restroom is an issue that speaks to women.  Women live longer, experience pregnancy and menstruation, and are more likely to be caregivers of children or elders who also need toilet facilities. As researchers such as the University of Illinois’ Kathryn Anthony have demonstrated, moreover, women simply require more time, thanks to anatomy and clothing.    This explains why often lines form at the women’s restroom but not at the men’s.

Male:Female Ratios

There are two ways to address this issue of Potty Parity.   One is the establishment of female:male ratio for the number of fixtures.   For example, New York City requires twice as many toilets for women as men.

Legislation requiring a female:male ratio usually conflicts with existing State-mandated building codes, which set a number of required fixtures based on occupancy and use.  Ratios, in fact, can result in an undersupply of toilets for women.

Plumbing Code Change

A more promising way to achieve potty parity is through code change.  Changing the plumbing code can mandate building design with restrooms that meet the evolving needs of contemporary society.

Plumbing codes, a subset of the building code, traditionally require minimum number of toilet fixtures and are based on complex formulas and tables.   Older code typically mandates an equal number of fixtures for women and men rather than an optimal number based on research. This requires amendment.  Furthermore, code needs to be updated to address surge periods in toilet use at large venues, such as the 7th inning stretch at a baseball stadium.   Most states also need to adopt code to rectify problems women face in small stores or restrooms with a single women’s toilet.  While attending to two toddlers, a mother may lock others out for 10 minutes or so, causing queuing at the door.

Ask your state legislators to support code change that brings real potty parity.

Most states have adopted either the International Plumbing Code (IPC) or the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC).  Three proposed code changes, if adopted at the state level, will bring relief to women.

Require that ‘minimum number of toilet fixtures’ in the latest building code provide the needed toilet facilities for everyone.  The proposed 2009 version of both the IPC and UPC should eliminate queuing and rectify remaining weaknesses in the building code for popular public venues. (For a restaurant that can legally accommodate up to 150 people, the IPC currently requires only 1 toilet for women (the UPC requires 3).  For a store with an occupancy of 1000, the IPC still mandates only 1 female toilet (the UPC requires 4 to 8).

Ensure that even older buildings to have the ‘minimum number of toilet fixtures’ required in the latest code.

Increase the use of  unisex or family toilets as these provide intrinsic potty parity.   Small restaurants, for example, usually have one men’s and one women’s.  Making both unisex would make it less likely that anyone would have to wait.

Want more Information?

Find contact information for state legislators.

The proposed changes and the case for them, in the necessarily technical language of codes.

The Code Development Hearings and the 2009 International Code Council Annual Conference

Examples of building code implementation and a discussion of distortions caused by ‘ratio’ legislation are found in “New Ballpark Statistic: Stadium’s Toilet Ratio,” a New York Times front page story on April 12, 2009.

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Our Mission Through education and advocacy, PHLUSH helps local governments and citizen groups to provide equitable public restroom availability and to prepare for a pipe-breaking seismic event with appropriate ecological toilet systems.

Our Vision Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.

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Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH) was founded in Portland, Oregon and today collaborates with groups across North America.

PHLUSH is a member of the World Toilet Organization and a partner in the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.

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