International Building Code Address Gender-Neutral Public Bathrooms

Recent Amendments to International Building Code Address Gender-Neutral Public Bathroom Design

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Proposals initiated by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the American Institute of Architects have been approved this week by the International Code Council (ICC) and will amend the International Building and Plumbing Codes to increase equity and efficiency in public bathroom design..

The first of these will require signage on all single-user bathrooms to indicate that they are open to all users. The second will allow gender-neutral multi-stall bathroom designs, where each toilet is in a private compartment, with shared sink areas. These updates are intended to improve restroom accessibility for transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, people with disabilities and their caregivers, and families with small children -- or anyone who has ever waited in line while another restroom sat empty. Transgender people frequently face harassment in bathrooms separated by gender, with one in ten respondents in the 2015 US Transgender Survey being denied use of a public restroom because of their gender identity or expression.

The standards in the International Building Code are used to establish federal, state, and municipal rules governing the safe and adequate construction of all buildings, both public and private. The current ICC Codes are used as the basis for such laws in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These new changes will be published in the 2021 edition of the ICC Codes and are expected to be adopted by state and local governments on a rolling basis thereafter.

The NCTE worked closely with James P. Colgate, a partner at the law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner on a pro-bono basis to develop and pass these proposals, with the help of the American Institute of Architects and other LGBT organizations. Architects and advocates across the country have been hard at work developing innovative and inclusive design concepts for public restrooms, including architectural models and best practice proposals illustrated on the online design project Stalled!

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, applauded the new regulations. “Separating single-use restrooms by gender has never made sense for transgender people or anyone else. These new rules not only preserve the privacy and dignity of all—they make our public spaces more accessible, safe, and equitable."