I’m often asked whether there is a model-code requirement specific to the lock function used on single-user restroom doors, and whether an indicator is required.  To date, I have only seen a few state and local requirements, but that will change with the 2021 editions of the International Building Code (IBC) and International Plumbing Code (IPC).  A new requirement has been approved for both of these codes, stating:

Privacy. Doors to single-user toilet and bathing rooms and family or assisted-use toilet and bathing rooms shall be securable from within the room and be provided with an “occupied” indicator.

The reason statement that accompanied the code change proposal states:

This code change proposal will alleviate privacy and safety concerns by requiring the occupied indicator for single-user restrooms. Without an occupied indicator, the only way for someone to see if the room is in use is to turn the handle. This causes safety and privacy concerns for the user. This can cause severe discomfort, even fear, for children or people who have suffered trauma. This proposal will proactively provide increased comfort and safety for everyone.

I think it’s always a good idea to have an indicator on a single-user restroom door, and when the 2021 IBC or IPC is adopted, it will become a requirement.

And now…a question for you:

Imagine a college dormitory, which has 2 single-user toilets in the common area.  All of the other restrooms are only available to students who live in the dorm – not to visitors.  The 2 common-area restrooms have privacy sets, which can be unlocked from the outside with a small screwdriver.

As you are probably imagining, students sometimes open the restroom doors when their friends are inside – a privacy set does not guarantee privacy when there’s an opportunity to prank your friends and videotape the results.

Which lock function would you suggest?  WWYD?

A few things to consider:

  • Is access to a restroom a requirement, or could these doors be locked “gas-station style” with a key available at the desk?
  • Is it important to be able to access the room quickly (with a screwdriver), in case someone in the restroom needs help, or is a key acceptable?
  • What type of lock would you use to help ensure privacy/security, safety, and code-compliance?

Please share your insight!

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