Are you the landlord planning to re-model or give your existing building or facility a face-lift? Do you have new tenants moving in or existing tenants preparing for an interior remodel or expansion project soon? If either of these two circumstances apply to you, you need to know that not only does the area being altered need to meet new construction standards for accessibility but the “path of travel” to the altered area does as well.
The Federal ADA as well as California’s Title 24 requires upgrades to the Path of Travel and certain accessible elements when making changes to a specific area. This is called the “Specific Area of Alteration” clause.
For interior remodels, these elements consist of doors, door hardware, thresholds, pounds of pressure to operate the door, signage, drinking fountains, and the closest restroom along the route from the altered area. (Keep in mind that in California, all single accommodation restrooms must now be “signed” as “gender-neutral” as of last March!)
For exterior remodels, these elements consist of an “off-site” path of travel connection to the public sidewalk, accessible path of travel at the affected area, the nearest disabled parking, curb ramps, striping and signage along the route of the altered area.
If the cost for making these additional “interior” or “exterior” elements accessible exceeds 20% of construction costs then a “disproportionate cost” may be determined. Per the ADA, the additional amount you are required to spend over the construction costs would be maximum 20%.
In California, if the cost exceeds the cost threshold, then a minimum 20% additional is required.
Currently the 2017 cost Threshold is $156,162.00 and continues to increase every January.
So, let me break this down for you …
If the total construction costs are at this threshold number or below, then a maximum of 20% additional will need to be spent on accessibility upgrades.
If the total construction costs exceed the current threshold number then a minimum of 20% will be required on accessibility upgrades.
This is where it gets interesting!
“If the construction costs exceed the current threshold amount, the California Building Code states that you must bring full compliance to the facility. But they go on to say that if exceeding 20% additional would create an “unreasonable hardship” then full compliance will not be required but you are to provide the highest level of compliant access without exceeding 20%. But in no case, shall the cost of compliance be less than 20%. This is one of those really “Grey Areas” within the code that is left up to the interpretation of the building official.
California has the “minimum and maximum 20%” rule. The Federal ADA is a flat 20%
The new 2010 ADA states “Alterations made to provide an accessible path of travel to the altered area will be deemed disproportionate to the overall alteration when the cost exceeds 20% of the cost of the alteration to the primary function area.”
This includes upper floors in buildings that do not provide an elevator. The priority of these elements is as follows:
- An accessible entrance;
- An accessible route to the altered area;
- At least one accessible restroom for each sex or a single unisex restroom;
- Accessible telephones;
- Accessible drinking fountains; and
- Additional accessible elements such as parking, storage, and alarms.
NOTE: if the alteration is for the sole purpose of “Barrier Removal”, then there is no additional 20% additional cost required above the construction cost.
Items that do NOT trigger the upgrade clause are maintenance repair projects which consist of:
- ventilation and air conditioning
- electrical work not involving placement of switches and receptacles
- cosmetic work that does not affect items regulated by this code, such as painting
- equipment not considered to be a part of the architecture of the building or area, such as computer terminals, office equipment, etc.
These are items not considered to be an alteration or improvement project for the purposes of accessibility for persons with disabilities and shall not be subject to this code unless they affect the usability of the building or facility.
The term “construction cost” does not include building permit fees or discretionary permit fees. The only purpose of this exception is to exclude projects from activating the provisions of this section. The exceptions are not intended to relieve projects from complying with other applicable provisions of this code (e.g., replacement of carpet does not activate ‘the provisions of this section; however, it still must comply with new construction standards.
I know this can be confusing at times, especially when the person at the building department does not explain how this works and what is specifically required at the time of permit submittal.
If you have any questions about what exactly is required for your upcoming project, please feel free to contact us before starting your project.