Last fall, I taught a 2021 code update class for the DHI conference, and I mentioned a code change that would require privacy sets on individual restrooms to have indicators.  Because the publication date of the International Building Code (IBC) was delayed, I had to teach the class without actually seeing the 2021 code.  As it turns out, the IBC requirement for an indicator doesn’t apply to ALL single-user restrooms, only to the family or assisted-use toilet and bathing rooms that are most commonly found in assembly and mercantile occupancies.  

I can’t think of a good reason why a privacy indicator would be important for one type of single-user restroom and not others…I think the code was changed in this way because there is a section specific to family and assisted-use restrooms.  Regardless, the indicator is a good idea, but not a code requirement for other types of single-user restrooms.  The proposal for the International Plumbing Code, which would have required indicators for all single-user restrooms was not approved.

Here’s the original post, which I have edited to reflect the correction:

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 the 2021 edition of the IBC includes a change that will mandate an occupied indicator on some single-user toilet rooms:

1110.2.1.6 Privacy. Doors to family or assisted-use toilet and bathing rooms shall be securable from within the room and be provided with an “occupied” indicator.

A change proposed for the 2021 International Plumbing Code (IPC) would have required occupied indicators for all single-user toilets, but this change was not approved.  However, the reason statement that accompanied the code change proposal illustrates the need for these indicators, stating:

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.

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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