County Approves more Inclusive Plumbing Code

By Jessie Catenacci-Morgan, AIA Posted on September 2, 2021

On September 1st 2021, the Allegheny County Board of Health voted to approve changes to the plumbing code that are a welcome shift toward inclusivity and greater access to restrooms for people of all genders, especially our Trans, Intersex, and Nonbinary community, as well as people with disabilities and their caregivers. AIA Pittsburgh’s Equity Diversity & Inclusion Community and Advocacy Committee have been following this issue, with members of both committees attending virtual hearings.

The approved revisions pertain to Article XV: Plumbing and Building Drainage, including the footnotes to Table AC-403.1 Minimum Number of Required Plumbing Fixtures, and Section 403.1.2 Family or assisted-use toilet and bath fixtures. For many building types, the ACHD requires more fixtures than the 2015 IPC, the current version of the code adopted by Pennsylvania L&I.  These include theaters, bars and restaurants, indoor sports facilities, businesses, schools, factories, prisons, and daycare centers.  The revised footnotes to Table AC-403.1, included in this article, show the additional number of plumbing fixtures required by ACHD to be provided in single-user restrooms with gender-neutral signage.  Family or assisted-use toilet facilities will also not be required to be identified for exclusive use by either sex.  The word ‘exclusive’ is written directly in the language of the code, acknowledging the history of our society’s binary understanding of gender and the exclusionary practices that are embedded in our codes.

We look forward to the adoption of more inclusive codes such as IPC 2021, which allows multi-user facilities to be designed for use by people of all genders.  The current revisions to the ACHD plumbing code are a step in the right direction and will improve inclusive access to restrooms.  Thanks to local advocates for the LGBTQ+ community and advocates for people with disabilities for raising awareness of the issue and for working with our local authorities to make this change.

Jessie Catenacci-Morgan is a member of AIA Pittsburgh's EDI Community.

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