Potty Parity


“Potty Parity” refers to advocacy efforts and actual legislation that addresses the longer lines for women often seen at public restrooms.

Women’s queues are often seen at venues where the toilet fixture were allocated according to out-of-date building codes.  These codes mandate a minimum number of toilet fixtures for various occupancies, which are based on complex  formulas and tables.

The code used in older buildings typically mandate an equal number of toilet fixtures for women and men rather then the ‘necessary’ number of fixtures for both sexes.   Older code also does not address surge periods in toilet usage at large venues; for example during the 7th inning stretch at baseball game.   Even the current code used by many States does not address the problem women face at small venues with a single women’s toilet.  One mom, walking in with her small children can have the toilet locked for 5 – 10 minutes which often causes a queue waiting for the door to open.  Potty parity legislation, typically, has tried to address these problems by mandating twice as many toilets for women as for men.

Problems with Gender Parity Legislation

A legislated female:  male ‘ratio, typically  2 to 1, has serious deficiencies.   First,  it conflicts with State-mandated building codes   The latest building codes address ‘toilet need’ with direct counts rather than ratios.  Worse, for certain venues the latest code mandates ratios higher  than 2 to 1 leading to the ironic situation of potty parity legislation reducing the required toilet fixtures for women.    Adding   ‘no less than’  language can result in a significant excess of fixtures reserved for female use.   This might occur, for example, in an all-male school dormitory or a prison block.

A second problem is that rather then adding additional toilets, often male restrooms are converted to female use. Rather then removing queuing for  everyone, it results in a shift to longer lines for men.

A front page story in the April 12, 2009 New York Times entitled “New Ballpark Statistic:Stadium’s Toilet Ratio” provides interesting examples of proper building code implementation and it also discusses distortions caused by ‘ratio’ legislation.


The American Restroom Associations recommends ‘potty parity’ legislation that has a three-fold goal.

First, ensure that the required  ‘minimum number of toilet fixtures’ in the latest building code provide the necessary number of toilet facilities for everyone.  The two major sources of  ‘toilet provisioning  code’,  are the International Plumbing Code and the Uniform Plumbing Code.   For most venues, the toilet minimums provided in the 2009 version of these codes will eliminate queuing for either sex.   Legislation may be required to address building code weakness for a few remaining critical popular public venues.   For example, the IPC requires 1 toilet for women in a restaurant that could accommodate up to a 150 people (the UPC requires 3).  In a store designed to accommodate 1000 customers and employee’s, the IPC still mandates only 1 female toilet.  (the UPC requires between 4 to 8).

Second, bring older buildings up to the ‘minimum number of toilet fixture’ required in the latest code.

A third objective of this legislation should be to increase the use of unisex toilets where feasible.  Unisex facilities provide intrinsic potty parity.   Small restaurant, for example, often have 1 men’s and 1 women’s toilet.  Making them both unisex would reduce the chance of waiting for everyone.

ARA Potty Parity Code Development Support Material

ARA technical support  for changes proposed to correct potty parity IPC deficiencies via the ICC 2010 Code Development Cycle.
Potential Corrections   (F) = Female  (M) = Male

Current IPC 2009 is A-2  Bar   1 per 40
Change A-2  Bar  (F)  1/25 first 25 then 1 per 75      U=200
Change A-2  Bar  (M) 1/25 first 25 then 1 per 90     U=200+150

Current IPC 2009 is  A-2 Restaurant  1 per 75
Change A-2 Restaurant  (F)  1/25 first 25 then 1 per 80
Change A-2 Restaurant  (M) 1/25 first 25 then 1 per 100

Current IPC 2009 ‘B’ Business  is  1 per 25 first 50 then 1 per 50
Change B (F)  1 per 25 first 50 then 1 per 50             U=200
Change B (M) 1 per 25 first 50 then 1 per 100           U=500+300

Current 2009 ‘M’ Mercantile is 1 per 500
Change M (F)  1 per 25 first 50 then 1 per 400           U=200
Change M (M) 1 per 25 first 50 then 1 per 600          U=200+150
There are various foot-notes and rules that are included with the minimum number of toilet fixtures tables. Below are ARA developed tables that show actual numbers after the caveats are applied.


Minimum Number of Toilet Fixture Comparison Chart

Cell background colors indicates:
RED    Minimums appear inadequate
YELLOW  – Questionable minimums
BLUE  Minimums appear excessive
GREEN Proposed change

Federal Law 29 CFR 1910.141(c)(1)(i): Toilet Facilities

For Occupancy between1-1516-3536-5556-8081-110111-150151-300
Total WC Minimums12345612

Uniform Plumbing Code 2006 Restaurant, Publs, and Lounges

For Occupancy between1-1415-100101-300301-500501-700701-900
Total WC Minimums14681012

IPC-2006 A-2 Restaurant

For Occupancy between1-1516-150151-300
Total WC Minimums124

IPC 2006 A-2 Pubs and Lounges

For Occupancy between1-1516-8081-160161-240241-320321-400401-480481-560461-640
Total WC Minimums1246810121416

Note: Federal Law 29 CFR 1910.141 is  based on research reported by the U.S. National Institute of Health.  The law has been successfully defended against numerous challenges in both State and Federal Courts.

ARA Recommends the Following Changes to the 2006 IPC

ARA – Minimum IPC WC Recommendation Chart
Change to 2006 IPC A-2 (Restaurant and Bar Combined)

For Occupancy between1-1516-8051-100101-150151-300
Total WC Minimums11M-1F2M-2F2M-3F3M-4F

Fall Back #1 2006 IPC A-2 Restaurant Only

For Occupancy between1-1516-8061-150151-300
Total WC Minimums11M-1F2M-2F2M-4F

Fall Back #2 2006 IPC A-2 Restaurant Only

For Occupancy between1-1516-8061-150151-300
Total WC Minimums11M-1F2M-2F2M-3F

IPC 2006 USE GROUP M is significantly at variance with the UPC and appears to be under provisioned at higher occupancies.

Uniform Plumbing Code 2006 Retail and Wholesale (Equiv IPC Use Group M)

For Occupancy betweenN/a1-5051-100201-400401-600601-800
Total WC Minimums11M-1F2M-2F4M-4F

IPC 2003 Use Group M

For Occupancy between1-5051-1000
Total WC Minimums12

“At Least” Change Recommendation for IPC 2003 Ue Group M

For Occupancy between1-5051-1000
Total WC Minimums12M-2F

Note:  Going from 2 (1 locked for each gender) to 4 (2 WC for each gender) increases the capacity more then 2 fold.  The IPC allows urinals to be substituted for  50% the WC’s.



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American Restroom Association, Inc.
P.O. Box 21237
Catonsville, MD 21228

Phone:  800-247-3864
Email: getinfo@americanrestroom.org

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