A new option that has been made available to designers in the most current updates to the Chicago Building and Plumbing Code is an allowance for the construction of unisex, multi-user toilet rooms, instead of requiring separate gendered toilet rooms. Previously, Chicago Plumbing Code mandated that plumbing fixtures and toilet rooms be separated by gender and any non-gendered fixtures would not be able to be counted towards the total number of required fixtures.
With this change, toilet rooms are allowed to be designated as gender neutral with all required plumbing fixtures provided within a single room, however, there are some additional design requirements that must be met. These items include:
- Water closet compartments must be enclosed with solid walls or partitions and no gaps in the enclosure are permitted between 4.5” and 7’-0” above the floor. Portions of the enclosure other than the door must extend to at least 9’-0” above the floor or 2” below the ceiling, whichever is less. Note that this does not preclude the compartments from being fully enclosed. The door must be lockable and have a visual indicator on the exterior showing when it is occupied.
- A trash can or waste receptacle must be provided within each water closet compartment.
- Urinals are permitted, however, must be within a room and provided with clear signage indicating as such
- The door to the overall toilet room cannot be lockable
- An accessible single-user unisex toilet room must be provided and be located within 200’ of the multi-user room. The single user can be one floor above or below the common multi-user toilet room.
Note that there may be some additional review that is needed by DOB as this is not a typical condition and they may ask for additional documentation confirming that all requirements are being met.
When a multi-user unisex toilet room is provided, they are not treated like typical unisex restrooms from an accessibility perspective. When unisex single-user toilet rooms are provided, the requirement in Chicago Building Code, Section 1109.2 Exception 3, reads that at least 50 percent but not less than one room at each cluster of toilet rooms shall be accessible.
The requirement states “single-user toilet rooms”, therefore the 50 percent unisex requirement will not apply to toilet compartments in a multi-user room, regardless if they are intended to be unisex or not.
Chicago Building Code, Section 1109.2.2 does apply to the multi-user restroom. Requiring 5 percent minimum, but no less than one of the compartments to be a wheelchair-accessible compartment. If the combined number of water closet compartments provided in the multi-user toilet room is six or more, then 5 percent of the compartments shall be an ambulatory-accessible compartment.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about unisex toilet rooms, the accessibility requirements, or any other recent code changes.