How To Achieve ADA Compliance in Modular Buildings
Recent reports show that 26% of the American population is living with disabilities. Among adults, 13.7% live with functional ambulatory disabilities which include physical and mobility impairments that may require the use of a wheelchair, cane, or crutches to move from place to place. As part of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, business owners need to meet standards of accessibility to their buildings for people with disabilities. This can be a huge undertaking, with many issues that must be addressed. So, how can you achieve ADA compliance in your new modular building?
5 Key Areas of ADA Compliance in Modular Buildings
Individuals with ambulatory disabilities have a 22% employment rate, which means accommodations need to made throughout workplaces to ensure a safe and equal work environment. Even if you don’t employ an individual with an ambulatory disability, you may serve customers, vendors, or contractors with disabilities throughout your building.
Although this does not represent the entire list of standards that your building must meet, these are the key areas that should be addressed as part of the modular construction ADA guidelines.
Building Access — Modular buildings are typically constructed on a raised foundation that’s about 36 inches above the ground. You’ll need to add access to your building that can be utilized by employees or visitors in wheelchairs or those who cannot safely navigate steps.
Two options to achieve this include:
Building a wheelchair-friendly ramp — Building codes require that for every inch off the ground your building is raised, you must add one foot of ramp. So, a building set on a 36-inch foundation would require a 36-foot ramp.
Creating a deeper foundation — When the building foundation is dug deeper, the standard 36-inch rise is now flush with the ground. While this allows you to avoid the construction of a ramp, it is not the most cost-effective solution. Your building may also face future issues with moisture/humidity control in the basement.
External Considerations — When considering the placement of your modular building, you may be responsible for making external accessibility updates. This can include an accessible path of travel from a public sidewalk to your building, curb ramps, or disabled parking.
Doorways — Doorways should be designed to be at least 32 inches wide with a cleared opening. Additionally, there should be adequate clearance on both sides of the doorway for easy opening and closing of doors. Finally, ADA compliant door hardware should be added to all office doors. This includes installing handles instead of knobs.
Hallways — All hallways should be constructed with 36 inches of clearance. Open workspaces with minimal doors, partitions, walls, hallways, and other potential barriers make it easier to achieve ADA compliance in modular buildings.
Restrooms — When designing office restrooms, you should take steps to include an ADA-compliant stall and safety rails. It’s also necessary to address the height of bathroom accessories like towels and soaps to ensure they can be accessed by individuals in wheelchairs.
Making Existing Buildings and Renovations ADA Compliant
Modular construction ADA guidelines for new buildings are pretty cut and dry. What gets tricky is updating existing modular buildings to be ADA compliant. Many people believe that buildings built 1990 — when the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted — are grandfathered and don’t need to achieve accessibility.
The reality is that companies are required to make appropriate efforts to meet ADA compliance in modular buildings whenever they choose to alter a primary function area. This includes remodeling, renovating, rehabilitating, reconstructing, changing, or rearranging structural elements of your building.
Meeting ADA guidelines is necessary when appropriate changes can be accomplished without being excessively difficult or expensive. As a general rule of thumb, up to 20% of construction costs must be dedicated to removing barriers. If the costs exceed 20%, then it’s considered a “disproportionate cost” and allowances may be made.