Michelle Davis, CASp at Lionakis, was standing in the newly completed toilet room, verifying that it was built to required accessibility codes, and shook her head. The original Architect had specified 36-inch long rear grab bars at the toilet, code minimum length.  The installer had placed the bar so that 11 7/8” of its length was on the narrow side of the toilet, and 24 1/8” was on the wide side.  Michelle carefully confirmed the dimension by drawing the location of the toilet center line on the bar with chalk.  She looked at the Project Site Manager and said “I can’t accept it.  The code requires 12 inches on the narrow side and 24 inches on the wide side. Since this bar is the minimum length, it has to be placed exactly or it isn’t compliant.”

Michelle received a call later that day from the Project Manager’s boss, who also was an Estimator for the construction company. He understood Michelle’s position but wanted to know why Architects always specified these minimum length bars. “I have no idea” Michelle replied. “I teach my drafters to use a longer bar unless they absolutely have no space for it.” He confided in her that when he bids on a project where the minimum length bars are used, he estimates that it will take four times as long to install, because of the accuracy required, and the possibility of having to reinstall each one.  If longer bars are used, he can shave time, and cost to the owner, on his bid.  He asked what the price difference is between a 36-inch long grab bar and a 42-inch long one, which is the next standard length.  He said “About six bucks”.  They chuckled and shook their heads a bit more. “Why can’t you just install a longer bar?” Michelle asked.  He explained that it wouldn’t be per the project requirements or approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction, and the Owner could make him tear it out and build it “per the plans”, all good and appropriate reasons.  The lesson learned that day was that the smaller, less expensive bars aren’t really less and that designing in tolerance saves not only headaches but time and money in the long run.

A classic tolerance example, pictured above, shows the cross slope of a walkway or ramp which is allowed to be 2.1% maximum. The level above has a published tolerance of 0.1%, meaning 2.2% might be okat, but this is just outside that tolerance, so it is considered non-compliant.

Our in-house CASp, Michelle Davis, brings 30 years of experience in architectural design and access compliance. Michelle possesses a rare combination of both creative and design skills that allow her to successfully navigate even the most challenging issues. She is a proven problem solver with excellent knowledge of building codes and accessibility requirements. Let Lionakis assist you with all of your accessibility needs!