Submitted by on August 19, 2016

The following commentary is in regards to understanding the requirements for the provision of accessible unisex sanitary facilities within proposed building works and existing buildings. This commentary is based on the requirements from the National Construction Code (NCC) formerly the Building Codes of Australia (BCA).

To answer this let’s first review the requirements for ‘New’ buildings. These are found in Section F, the direct reference for accessible unisex sanitary facilities is F2.4. Essentially the requirement to provide an accessible unisex sanitary facility hinges on one essential question. This question is derived from the follow part of the start of the BCA F2.4 clause:

In a building required to be accessible

Therefore the first question to be answered is: Is the proposed building required to be accessible?

If the answer to this question is YES then accessible unisex sanitary facilities must be provided in accordance with BCA Table F2.4(a). There are slightly different ‘number’ requirements depending on the Classification of the building. These are summarised below.

Class 1b – At least 1 – Noting that if accessible unisex sanitary facility is provided for every accessible bedroom then common accessible unisex sanitary facilities are not required.

Class 2 – Wherever sanitary facilities are provided in common areas at least 1 accessible unisex sanitary facility must be provided.

Class 3 and 9c – At least 1 accessible unisex sanitary facility within an accessible sole-occupancy unit and at each bank of male and female sanitary facilities provided in common areas.

Class 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9 – Where the BCA Section F2.3 requires closet pans – 1 accessible unisex sanitary facility on every storey that provides sanitary facilities and where a storey has more than 1 bank of sanitary facilities for males and females, at least 50% of the banks must provide an accessible unisex sanitary facility.

Class 10a – At least 1 accessible unisex sanitary facility at each bank of sanitary facilities for males and females.

Essentially wherever toilets are provided in buildings that are required to be accessible, in most cases, at least 1 accessible unisex sanitary facility must be provided. There are no exemptions ‘to not provide an accessible unisex sanitary facility’ – the requirements of the BCA are minimums and must be provided – especially in new buildings.

What about existing buildings where building works are proposed?

Existing buildings attract a slightly different approach to the provision of accessible unisex sanitary facilities as the requirement to provide compliant sanitary facilities will somewhat be determined by the extent of the works being proposed.

For works where the building permit does not incorporate any of the existing sanitary facilities and there is no change of use or the works do not exceed 50% of the total building area, upgrading the existing sanitary facilities to be inclusive of an accessible unisex sanitary facility in most cases won’t be required.

With that being said, wherever the building permit does incorporate any of the existing sanitary facilities or there is a change of use or the works exceed 50% of the total building area, upgrading existing sanitary facilities – including providing accessible unisex sanitary facilities is required. This provision of accessible unisex sanitary facilities must be to the Australian Standard AS1428.1 – 2009 requirements.

****Note on existing accessible unisex sanitary facilities****

Where there is an accessible unisex sanitary facility and the buildings works proposed require the provision of accessible unisex sanitary facilities, the existing accessible unisex sanitary facility does not need to be upgraded to the AS1428.1 – 2009 requirements as long as the accessible unisex sanitary facility meets all of the Australian Standard AS1428.1 – 2001 requirements. This is an exemption under the Access to Premises Standard “4.5 Toilet Concession” as shown below:

4.5 Toilet concession

(1) Paragraphs F2.4 (c) and (e) of the Access Code, to the extent that they require compliance with AS 1428.1—2009, Design for access and mobility, Part 1: General requirements for access—New building work, do not apply to the following:

(a) existing accessible sanitary compartments;

(b) existing sanitary compartments suitable for use by people with a disability.

(2) For subsection (1) to apply, a sanitary compartment mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b) must:

(a) comply with AS 1428.1—2001, Design for access and mobility, Part 1: General requirements for access—New building work; and

(b) be located in either a new part, or an affected part, of a building.

Therefore, as long as the existing accessible unisex sanitary facility meets the requirements of AS1428.1 – 2001 there is o need to upgrade it to the AS1428.1 – 2009 requirements for accessible unisex sanitary facilities.

Should the existing accessible unisex sanitary facility not meet the requirements of AS1428.1 – 2001 then the facility will be required to be upgraded to the AS1428.1 – 2009 requirements. It is not as simple as rectifying the AS1428.1 – 2001 non-conforming elements as this will trigger (in most cases) a building permit and be required to be upgrade. There may be the possibility of upgrading the non-conforming elements as part of documentation of a correctly compiled alternative solution under the BCA. For further information on Alternative Solutions – CLICK HERE

Put short & simply – accessible unisex sanitary facilities are required in new buildings as well as existing buildings where building works are greater than 50% of total area, include works to existing sanitary facilities, or require a change of use.

For further information regarding the requirements for accessible unisex sanitary facilities please feel free to contact us.