Skip links

 In Multi-Family Housing

Question: During an FHA accessibility construction audit of the first six (of 22) floors with drywall installed, 40 units were found to have bathrooms where the toilet CL was 16-½” from the near side wall. Do they need to be moved?

HUD has recognized ten ‘safe harbors’ for compliance with the FHA’s design and construction requirements – including the FHA Design Manual and A117.1-2003 (used in conjunction with the FHA, HUD’s Regulations and the FHA Guidelines). Both the Design Manual and A117.1-2003 require that where toilets in unit bathrooms are adjacent to sidewalls the CL of the toilet be 18” from the side wall. A117.1-2009 allows toilets in Type B units to be 16” – 18” from the near side wall, but A117.1-2009 is not recognized by HUD as a safe harbor.

architectural drawing of toilet with CL 18"

FHA Design Manual & ANSI A117.1-2003

Architectural drawing of toilet with CL 16"-18"

A117.1-2009 & 2010 ADA Standards

Compliance with the FHA can be established by following a standard other than one of the safe harbors if the chosen standard meets the design and construction requirements specified in the FHA and implementing regulations.  The A117.1 standard is kept up to date through an open development process with safeguards to prevent domination by proprietary interests. The requirements of A117.1-2009 were arrived at by consensus of code officials, design professional, code consultants, government agencies, builders and representatives of disability advocacy groups. Though toilets at 16 ½” from the near side wall may not conform with a recognized safe harbor, it does meet the most current national model code for accessibility (as well as the 2010 ADA Standards) and therefore KMA thinks the condition is ‘defensible’.

NB: In Massachusetts, 521 CMR requires that toilet centerlines be 18” from the nearest wall. The 16-1/2” condition would require a variance, based on the same arguments as described above.