National Model Comprehensive Building Toilet Code
Relating to Public Use of Toilet Facilities in Business and Mercantile Establishments
Recent ARA Influenced Code Upgrades
Business and mercantile establishments occasionally indicate they have no customer toilet facilities. Most likely the store managers, owners and even some local code officials are not aware that this policy is at variance with their municipalities building code. The following 2009 International Plumbing Code Change will likely improve awareness that customer restrooms are a mandate.
2007 IPC 403.5.1 Directional signage. Directional signage indicating the route to the public facilities shall be posted in accordance with Section 3107 of the IBC. Such signage shall be located in a corridor or aisle at the entrance to the facilities for customers and visitors.
Toilet code enforcement ambiguity has been addressed by the following change that was published in the 2009 International Property Maintenance Codes.
2009 IPC 502.5 Public toilet facilities. Public toilet facilities shall be maintained in a safe sanitary and working condition in accordance with the International Plumbing Code. Except for periodic maintenance or cleaning, public access and use shall be provided to the toilet facilities at all times during occupancy of the premises
Family/assisted-use toilets provide inherent potty parity. Two Family/assisted-use toilets increase overall availability. A single gender based toilet can be unavailable for periods of up to 15 minutes when, for example, the current occupant is using it for companion care, to change diapers, or to change a colostomy bag. Less need for gender based cleaning staff. Less impact when one toilet room is being cleaned or serviced. For decades, males and females have used the same toilet facility on airliners.
2012 IPC 403.2.1 (IBC [P]2902.2.1) Family or assisted-use toilet facilities serving as separate facilities. Where a building or tenant space requires a separate toilet facility for each sex and each toilet facility is required to have only one water closet, two family/assisted-use toilet facilities shall be permitted to serve as the required separate facilities. Family or assisted-use toilet facilities shall not be required to be identified for exclusive use by either sex as required by Section 403.4.
The majority of States adopt comprehensive consensus code that contains well-vetted language, which requires toilets facilities for customers, patrons and visitors. This code is typically mandated Statewide or where not mandated is often adopted voluntarily at the municipal level. With a few exceptions States adopt either the International Plumbing Code (IPC), the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) or the National Standard Plumbing Code (NSPC). Provided below is non-authoritative overview of these codes and their applicability
Note: The references below are for general information only. Refer to source documents for official references. Note: Highlighting and some bold face are not in the source documents.
… The city’s health and plumbing inspector, after conferring with the state’s chief plumbing inspector, notified store employees and the supervisor that they were wrong in denying the woman access to the bathroom. City and state codes require that customers, patrons and visitors to such public businesses must be allowed to use toilet facilities. … … the state inspector, agreed, listing a series of state codes dating back to the late 1970s in addition to the 2000 edition of the International Plumbing Code, which the city adopted. … … a store that violates codes can be found guilty of a misdemeanor charge … Source: Woman denied use of public restroom at Rochester thrift store’ Adam Krauss Staff Writer Foster Democrat 6/9/05
… visited a Dollar Tree store and, while shopping, have asked to use the restroom. I was told that the urinal had been kicked over so they no longer let the public use the facilities. The second time I was told that their shipment was blocking the doorway… …I talked to a friend [different State] … about my experience. … Her local Dollar Tree wouldn’t let her use the restroom because the “urinal had been kicked over”. Source: ARA Feedback dtd 27 Sep 2006 19:07:02
….There was a time when it used to cost a dime to use public bathrooms. But this retail establishment knew how to keep their shoppers happy: “FREE TOILETS” is spelled out in classic Art Deco typography… …Excuse yourself for a visit here today…. Source: ‘Lunchtime tourist’ Linda Koutsky Downtown Journal, Minneapolis, MN 10/11/06
State Adoption of Model Code
IPC – International Plumbing Code UPC – Uniform Plumbing Code NSP – National Standard Plumbing Code
- Alabama IPC adopted by the State
- Alaska UPC adopted by the State
- Arizona Codes are adopted locally
- Arkansas IPC adopted by the State
- California UPC )
- Colorado UPC Statewide
- Connecticut IPC
- D.C. IPC
- Delaware IPC Statewide
- Florida IPC effective Statewide
- Georgia IPC effective Statewide
- Hawaii UPC most of the Islands
- Idaho UPC effective Statewide
- Illinois IPC adopted by Local Governments
- Indiana UPC base document for State Code
- Iowa IPC effective Statewide
- Kansas IPC
- Kentucky State Plumbing Code based on IPC precursor
- Louisiana State Plumbing Code based on IPC precursor
- Maine IPC adopted by Local Governments
- Maryland NSP at State Level, some use of IPC locally
- Massachusetts Develops their own Uniform State Plumbing Code
- Michigan IPC effective Statewide
- Minnesota UPC effective Statewide
- Mississippi IPC adopted by Local Governments
- Missouri TBD either IPC or UPC effective Statewide
- Montana UPC effective Statewide
- Nebraska UPC adopted at State level
- Nevada UPC adopted at State level but IPC in use locally
- New Hampshire IPC
- New Jersey NSP at State Level
- New Mexico UPC adopted at State level but IPC in use locally
- New York IPC effective Statewide
- North Carolina IPC effective Statewide
- North Dakota UPC effective Statewide
- Ohio IPC effective Statewide
- Oklahoma IPC effective Statewide
- Oregon UPC effective Statewide
- Pennsylvania IPC
- Puerto Rico IPC effective Statewide
- Rhode Island IPC effective Statewide
- South Carolina IPC effective Statewide
- South Dakota UPC 2003 version effective Statewide
- Tennessee IPC effective Statewide
- Texas IPC at State but Austin, Houston, San Antonio use UPC
- US Virgin Is. UPC Island wide
- Utah IPC effective Statewide
- Vermont Use 1990 BOCA (BOCA now under IPC)
- Virginia IPC effective Statewide
- Wisconsin UBC Ch 61-65
- Washington UPC effective Statewide
- West Virginia IPC effective Statewide
- Wyoming Both IPC & UPC used by Local Governments
- International Plumbing Codes – Adoption by Jurisdiction provides a more current and comprehensive listing.
Restroom Availability Support
Tables for Minimum Number of Toilets
|International Plumbing Code||Mostly eastern States|
|Uniform Plumbing Code||Mostly western States|
|National Standard Plumbing Code||Maryland & New Jersey|
|Illinois Plumbing Code||Illinois does not adopt national code|
|New York City||NYC most likely will adopt IPC|
Example of code modification process Submitting code recommendations Submitting comment about the code
Maryland Public Restroom Law provides an example of State Legislator not being aware that their plumbing code already required toilets for customers in mercantile establishments.
2003 Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC)
Published by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials
413.2.2 Fixtures accessible only to private offices shall not be counted to determine compliance with this section. establishments with an occupant load of one hundred (100) or more shall be provided with separate facilities for employees and customers. Customer and employee facilities may be combined for occupant loads less than one hundred (100).
413.3 Separate Facilities Separate toilet facilities shall be provided for each sex. Exceptions: (2) In occupancies serving ten (10) or fewer people, one (1) toilet facility, designed for use by no more than one (1) person at a time, shall be permitted for use by both sexes. (3) In business and mercantile occupancies with a total floor area of fifteen hundred (1500) square feet (139.5 m 2 ) or less, one (1) toilet facility, designed for use by no more than one (1) person at a time, shall satisfy the requirements for serving customers and employees of both sexes.
413.5 Facilities in Mercantile and Business Occupancies Serving Customers 413.5.1 Requirements for customers and employees shall be permitted to be met with a single set of restrooms accessible to both groups. The required number of fixtures shall be the greater of the required number for employees or the required number for customers. 413.5.2 Fixtures for customer use shall be permitted to be met by providing a centrally located facility accessible to several stores. The maximum distance from entry to any store to this facility shall not exceed five hundred (500) feet (152.4 m).
Request for UPC Clarification
This is in response to your request for clarification on the Uniform Plumbing Code regarding facilities in mercantile/business occupancies, etc. The question(s) considered was (were):
Is it the intent of the 2003 UPC to require a toilet facility for customers, patrons, and visitors of all mercantile and business establishments?
The 2004 UPC Answers & Analysis Committee answered Item UPC #04-19 as follows:
Yes. The general provisions of Section 413.0 and Table 4-1 have requirements for employee use and public use in a number of occupancies including assembly, institutional, and office or public buildings.
Considering this issue were Chairman, John J. Roth, City of Houston, TX; Bob Adler, City of San Jose, CA; J. Trini Mendoza, County of Ventura, CA; Bruce Pfeiffer, City of Topeka, KS; Ed Schoenfeld, City of Salt Lake City, UT; G.F. ³Jed² Scheuermann, City of Portland, OR; and K. Anthony Wilcockson, City of Walnut Creek, CA. Thank you for your patience and interest in clarifying this matter.
Sincerely, John J. Roth Chairman, UPC Answers & Analysis Committee — By: Johnni Brown Answers & Analysis Committee Staff Liaison IAPMO World Headquarters 5001 E Philadelphia Street Ontario CA 91764-2816 USA Telephone: (909) 472-4109 Facsimile: (909) 472-4157 Web Address: http://www.iapmo.org
National Standard Plumbing Code (NSPC)
Published by the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors–National Association 7.21.4 Separate Facilities Separate toilet facilities shall be provided for each sex. EXCEPTIONS: [ deleted text ]
3. In businesses, occupancies with a total floor area of 1500 square feet or less, one toilet facility, de-signed for use by no more than one person at a time, shall satisfy the requirements for serving customers and employees of both sexes. 4. In mercantile occupancies with a net occupiable floor area of 1500 square feet or less that is accessible to customers, one toilet facility designed for use by no more than one person at a time, shall satisfy the requirements for serving customers and employees of both sexes.
7.21.7 Facilities in Mercantile and Business Occupancies Serving Customers a. Requirements for customers and employees shall be permitted to be met with a single set of restrooms accessible to both groups. The required number of fixtures shall be the greater of the required number for employees or the required number for customers. b. Fixtures for customer use shall be permitted to be met by providing a centrally located facility accessible to several stores. The maximum distance of entry from any store to this facility shall not exceed 500 feet. c. In stores with a floor area of 150 square feet or less, the requirement to provide facilities for employees shall be permitted to be met by providing a centrally located facility accessible to several stores. The maximum distance of entry from any store to this facility shall not exceed 300 feet. d. Drinking water facilities are not required for customers where normal occupancy is short term. e. For establishments less than 1500 square feet in total floor area, one water closet and one lavatory in a restroom with a lockable door shall be permitted to provide the requirements for serving the customers and employees.
Local Jurisdictions often strengthen the code requirements. As an example some jurisdictions have amended the NSPC with the following amendment.
Amend Table 7.21.1.”Minimum Number of Required Plumbing Fixtures: In item no. 7, “Mercantile,” delete row (a) in its entirety and in the next row, in the “Description” after “Uses” insert
“All gasoline service stations shall provide toilet facilities to the public when open for business. There shall be separate facilities for men and women.”
ARA Note: Using the above as an example, to whom would one complain if not allowed to use the toilet facilities at a gasoline service station and what is the penalty?
Examples of Independent State Code
ILLINOIS PLUMBING CODE SECTION 890.810 MINIMUM NUMBER OF PLUMBING FIXTURES Buildings with 5,000 square feet of gross public area or with occupancies of 100 or more persons shall provide public restrooms and drinking fountains as shown in Appendix A: Table B.
MASSACHUSETTS – UNIFORM STATE PLUMBING CODE Scan to (18) Minimum Facilities for Building Occupancy Other Than Residential and to Table 1: Minimum Facilities For Building Occupancy
248CMR Section 2.10 (Table: Minimum Facilities for Building Occupancy)
Older buildings are ‘grand-fathered’ as code is updated; that is an older building must abide by the applicable toilet codes at the time the build permit was issued. Typically the older codes also contained an occupant base toilet requirement.
Like wise ‘change of use’ or ‘change of occupancy’ will trigger the need for a new building permit and compliance with current code.
Examples of types of use
Assembly – place where unrelated people gather > restaurant, stadium, art gallery, gyms Business – professions > doctors, hairdressers Mercantile – things are sold, include grocery stores Educational, Factory & Industrial, High Hazard, Institutional, Residential, Storage, Utility, Historic – toilet requirement is often met by citing the availability of nearby toilets
There are also sub-categories in these of ’type of use’ elements. It appears unlikely that the construction done to change how a building is used could be done without a building permit and thus the need to meet current code. Renovation, however, that does not change use or occupancy may not require updated toilet code although it likely triggers ADA toilet upgrade.
Restroom Privacy Support
While commodes are typically housed in stalls, urinals are not. Not all codes mandate privacy partitions between urinals. Some men find this unsettling for a number of reasons. A partition that is sufficiently high to block direct conversation can deter nefarious sexual advances.
Partitions should be required with dimensions sufficient to provide a site-line block from below the trunk and up to the face of the majority of expected users. If stall requirements exist recommend the same height for urinal partitions. In lieu of other substantive information suggest no less then 73 inches.
The IPC added partition code into the 2002 model. It can be reviewed at page 6 proposal P9-04/05 for chapter 310.5
310.5 (Supp) Urinal privacy partitions. Each urinal utilized by the public or employees shall occupy a separate area with walls or partitions to provide privacy. The construction of such walls or partitions shall incorporate waterproof, smooth, readily cleanable and nonabsorbent finish surfaces. The walls or partitions shall begin at a height not more than 12 inches (304.8 mm) from and extend not less than 60 inches (1524 mm) above the finished floor surface. The walls or partitions shall extend from the wall surface at each side of the urinal a minimum of 18 inches (457 mm) or to a point not less than 6 inches (152 mm) beyond the outermost front lip of the urinal measured from the finished back wall surface, whichever is greater.
1. Urinal partitions shall not be required in a single occupant or unisex toilet room with a lockable door. 2. Urinals located in day care and child-care facilities and containing two or more urinals shall be permitted to have one urinal without partitions.
310.5 Urinal privacy. Each urinal utilized by the public or employees shall occupy a separate area with walls or partitions to provide privacy. The construction of such walls or partitions shall incorporate waterproof, smooth, readily cleanable and nonabsorbent finish surfaces. The walls or partitions shall begin at a height not more than 12 inches (304.8 mm) from and extend not less than 60 inches (1524 mm) above the finished floor surface. The walls or partitions shall extend from the wall surface at each side of the urinal a minimum of 18 inches (457 mm)or to a point not less than 6 inches (152 mm) beyond the outermost front lip of the urinal measured from the finished back wall surface, whichever is greater. Exception: Urinal partitions shall not be required in a single occupant or unisex toilet rooms with a lockable door. Commenter’s Reason: Floor action in Nashville was to approve this as submitted. The only stated reason for disapproval was that these requirements belong in the building code. This language and these similar requirements are currently in IPC Section 310.4 for water closets. If others see it fitting to also locate such text in the IBC, then approve this proposal and those folks can attempt to duplicate these requirements in the IBC later. The IPC water closet text on the same subject would need to do the same for consistency. This is a sanitation, and water conservation issue as well as privacy. It is not an uncommon situation where multiple urinals are located without privacy patricians that only one urinal will be used when multiple occupants enter at the same time. Thus the water closet will be used rather than the urinal, more water usage occurs and usually a soiled water closet seat is the result. This creates an insanitary condition and an unpleasant experience for the next user. This was proposed last code cycle and included testimony from “accessibility” experts that clearly stated this would not have an impact on the “accessibility” features of toilet rooms. Another issue brought up was that urinals manufactured with small side walls could be considered adequate. These type fixtures do not provide privacy; if a user stands close enough to gain the privacy aspect of these fixtures then splashing and sanitation become an issue. Urinals can be substituted for 67% of the required water closets. It is not reasonable for the code to allow two of the three users in a three-fixture toilet room absolutely no privacy when using such facilities. To keep up with potty parity and the like, the equivalent would be to now only require one out of three water closets in female toilet rooms to have privacy patricians. That would be ridiculous! The codes are designed so that males and females are entitled to, and provided, the same level of amenities, this includes privacy. Cost is a factor. In the past the code increased the number of fixtures required for females and this increased the cost of construction related to the space, labor and the materials. But, this is how codes evolve. Facts of reality identify problem areas and the codes address them, just as the fixture charts were determined to be deficient in the area of water closets for females for certain occupancies. Now, the voting membership has the opportunity to recognize and correct a deficiency in another area, privacy for males!
Source: 2004/2005 PROPOSED CHANGES TO THE INTERNATIONAL PLUMBING CODE (page 6 proposal P9-04/05 for chapter 310.5) The UPC does not specify a requirement for urinal
“Each water closet shall occupy a separate compartment which shall be equipped with a door, door latch and clothes hook. The door and the walls or partitions between fixtures shall be sufficient to assure privacy.”
NSPC – No available information
Gender / Potty Parity
Previous issues of the nation’s model consensus code mandated an equal amount of toilet fixtures for both men and women. Newer versions of the code will likely provide asymmetric recommendations that increase the minimum required facilities for women.
Supplementary / Conflicting State Legislation
Elected Officials sometimes introduce additional legislation, some of which appears to conflict with the model code adopted by their State.
Georgia General Assembly of 2004 House Bill 1620 [did not pass]
To amend Article 1 of Chapter 16 of Title 50 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to general provisions relative to public property, so as to provide standards for the number of women´s and men´s toilets in certain state, county, or city owned buildings and facilities; to provide for legislative findings; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.
SECTION 1. The General Assembly recognizes that there are often long waiting periods for the use of restrooms in public buildings and facilities and that such waiting periods are much longer for women than for men due to gender differences in the need to use the restroom and anatomical differences between men and women. The General Assembly also recognizes that women often attend to small children in restrooms. Many states and localities have created laws to address the issue of insufficient restroom facilities for women in public buildings and facilities.
SECTION 2. Article 1 of Chapter 16 of Title 50 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to general provisions relative to public property, is amended by adding a new Code section to read as follows: “50-16-21. (a) Any women´s or men´s restroom constructed or installed on or after July 1, 2004, in a state, county, or city owned building or facility shall be in accordance with the Standard Building Code as provided by Part 2 of Article 1 of Chapter 2 of Title 8 and shall meet any applicable requirements of county boards of health. (b) In addition to the requirements of subsection (a) of this Code section, any state, county, or city owned building or facility shall have a ratio of two toilets in each women´s restroom to every one toilet or urinal in a men´s restroom for restrooms that are constructed or installed on or after July 1, 2004.” Source:
South Carolina 1997 Session 112
H. 3250 — Amend the code of laws of South Carolina, 1976 by adding Secton 39-41-295 so as to require a service station or convenience store selling gasoline and food or beverages to provide a public restroom and limit the application of this section to such service stations and convenience stores constructed on and after July 1, 1998. Source:
Connecticut Public Health Code Section 19a-36 of the General Statutes
Toilet and Handwashing Facilities at Public Buildings, Places of Public Assembly, Places Dispensing Food and Beverages for Consumption on the Premises, and for the Patrons of Large Stores and Shopping Centers
19-13-B106. Toilet and handwashing facilities Toilet and handwashing facilities accessible to the public and separated for each sex, shall be provided at new or extensively renovated public buildings, places of public assembly, places dispensing food and beverage for consumption on the premises, and for the patrons of large stores and shopping centers in accordance with the State of Connecticut Basic Building Code, except that this regulation shall not apply to establishments constructed or altered pursuant to plans and specifications approved or building permits issued prior to October 1, 1977. Source: www.dph.state.ct.us/phc/docs/34_Toilet_and_Handwashing_F.doc
How is compliance with 19-13-B106 enforced?
Iowa Department of Public Health Memorandum to the State Board of Health
The Department of Public Health is required by statute to “establish, publish, and enforce a code of rules governing the installation of plumbing in cities and amend the same when deemed necessary.” Until 1982, the department maintained its own plumbing code. The lack of resources to maintain a full plumbing code and to publish it led to a decision to use a model code as the basis for the Iowa code; the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) was chosen. Source: www.idph.state.ia.us/do/board_of_health_agendas/091201/plumbing_9_12_01.pdf
Letters to Elected Officials
TO: Judiciary Committee
RE: SB 304
FR: Pearl Lewis
President/Founder, Maryland Patient Advocacy Group
Founder, Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Maryland
Director Patient Advocacy. Foundation for Children with
Member, Consumer Action Board, Medicare Rights Center
Founder, Maryland Renal Coalition
Denial of immediate access to a bathroom causes extreme pain and suffering, both physical and mental to thousands of Marylanders afflicted with a wide range of medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, an ostomy, UTIs, incontinence – common in 35% of women over 65 and men over 70 and a myriad of other conditions. To address this issue Senator Barbara Hoffman and myself, initiated SB 413 which mandates access to bathrooms in retail establishment by customers having a medical condition requiring immediate bathroom access. Governor Schaefer signed it into law in April of 1987. Despite 17 years on the books many retail establishments are not in compliance.
SB 304 would only add a fine for non-compliance with existing law. In the Senate, in discussion with Tom Sequella of the Retailers Association, we agreed that all that was necessary was an identification letter from a persons own physician stating that immediate bathroom access was necessary – NO INVOLVEMENT OF LOCAL HEALTH DEPARTMENTS.
There is no fiscal impact and no opposition to this bill.
We ask your favorable report.
Below is additional information on this situation in Maryland as well as the health effects of denying bathroom access.
The sanitation standard in Maryland plumbing code, as well as codes of every state, is intended to ensure people will not suffer the adverse health effects that can result if toilets are not available when… needed. Individuals vary significantly in the frequency with which they need to urinate and defecate, with pregnant women, women with stress incontinence, and men with prostatic hypertrophy needing to urinate more frequently. Increased frequency of voiding may also be caused by various medications, by environmental factors such as cold, and by high fluid intake, which may be necessary in hot environment. Diet, medication use, and medical condition are among the factors that can affect the frequency of defecation.
Medical studies show the importance of regular urination, with women generally needing to void more frequently than men. Adverse health effects that may result from voluntary urinary retention include increased frequency of urinary tract infections (UTIs), which can lead to more serious infections and, in rare situations, renal damage (see, e.g., Nielsen, A. Waite, W., “Epidemiology of Infrequent Voiding and Associated Symptoms,” Scand J Urol Nephrol Supplement 157). UTIs during pregnancy have been associated with low birthweight babies, who are at risk for additional health problems compared to normal weight infants (see, Naeye, R.L., “Causes of the Excess Rates of Perinatal Mortality and the Prematurity in Pregnancies Complicated by Maternity Urinary Tract Infections,” New England J. Medicine 1979; 300(15); 819-823). Medical evidence also shows that health problems, including constipation, abdominal pain, diverticuli, and hemorrhoids, can result if individuals delay defecation (see National Institutes of Health (NIH) Publication No. 95-2754, July 1995).
Maryland House of Delegates, Judiciary Committee
Lowe House Office Building, Room 121
84 College Ave.
Annapolis, MD 21401 – 1991
I am the Director of the Public Restroom Initiative.
Many Marylanders who travel to the Washington D.C. Metro area are aware of our successful effort to have the Metrorail station restrooms opened to the public. While the building codes of the various jurisdictions required restrooms for all station occupants there was no enforcement mechanism. I was pleased to acknowledge, via the Media and our mailing list, the effective support of the Maryland WMATA Board Members, all of whom voted for the more enforceable restroom policy.
I have recently learned of potential Maryland legislation (SB304) that will further strengthen the ability of people who are citizens of, who work in, or who are visiting Maryland to find and be able to use a restroom when it becomes critical. I am concerned, however, that not everyone who needs this legislation will benefit. Visitors to Maryland, for example, cannot be expected to have the necessary identification or paper work, nor will someone experiencing a bad reaction from recently eaten food. Maryland currently has excellent toilet requirements code based on the 2001 National Standards Plumbing Code Supplement and will soon be adopting the improved 2003 version. Rather than pass a new law that will conflict with this code, please consider language that works in concert with the existing and 2003 code.
For information that documents the broad scope of the problem, may I suggest you review the material at this web page: pr/Who.htm[ Address Field ]
Maryland House of Delegates, Judiciary Committee** You can help by letting the Maryland Legislature know you care **
Maryland House of Delegates, Judiciary Committee
Lowe House Office Building, Room 121
84 College Ave.
Annapolis, MD 21401 – 1991
or by email
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