In this article, we look at all gender (also called gender-neutral) toilet partition design considerations (excluding layout issues, which we covered in our prior article on this topic).
Privacy is always a concern in bathrooms, but it becomes even more critical in all gender bathrooms.
The biggest challenges to privacy are the gaps typical in public restroom stalls. Prior articles have discussed why there are gaps at the floor, the ceiling, the walls, and the doors. In the all gender setting these gaps need to be eliminated or at least minimized.
Historically floor gaps of 12 to 14 inches (305 to 356 mm) have been the norm for partition doors and panels. Recently these gaps have been decreasing. In practice, ambulatory and standard stall floor gaps can be as small as 1 inch. Wheelchair accessible stalls, however, are required by the ADA standards to have at least 9-inch (229 mm) gaps under the door and one panel. This gap is not required if the partition is at least 66 inches (1676 mm) wide and 66 inches (1676 mm) deep. With these dimensions, a wheelchair accessible stall can, in practice, also have floor gaps as small as 1 inch (25 mm).
Floor gaps smaller than 1 inch (25 mm) are possible but are situation dependent and require careful planning and execution. For example, most bathroom floors are uneven due to imprecise construction. If there are drains in the bathroom, the floor will be uneven by design. Uneven floors determine the minimum gap possible below the partitions.
Please contact us if you need to specify gaps smaller than one inch below the doors or panels.
The gap above doors and panels depends on component heights, materials, mounting styles, and ceiling heights. Historically, the tops of doors and panels were at least 70 inches (1778 mm) above the finished floor (AFF). Social trends have been calling for increased component heights with the goal of making the ceiling gap as small as possible.
There are no ADA requirements directly affecting the gap at the ceiling. Gaps as small as 1 inch (25 mm) can be done. Even smaller gaps are possible, but like the floor gaps, it is situation dependent. Important factors include how level the ceiling is and the clearances required for installation.
Occasionally ceiling gaps are needed above doors because material limitations restrict the maximum door height. In this situation, a transom above the door can keep things private. Note, however, if the door uses a rising hinge (common in toilet partitions), there must be space between the top of the door and the bottom of the transom to allow the door to lift as it swings.
As with small floor gaps, please contact us if you need to specify ceiling gaps smaller than one inch.
Toilet partition doors are normally attached to the edge of a pilaster. This is different from most interior doors, which are installed in a door frame which includes jambs and stops. The stops overlap the door edges and prevent gaps. Partition doors do not have anywhere to mount a similar stop, so there are frequently edge gaps. These gaps provide “sightlines” into and out of the stall. To prevent these sightlines, doors, and pilasters can ship lap (like in Ironwood's zero sightline system). Other methods include hardware astragals or mounting the doors in front of the pilaster.
Like the doors, toilet partition panels can also have sightlines at their edges. For example, panels can have gaps as large as 1 inch (25 mm) from the wall. The reasons for these gaps and a list of possible solutions can be found in our article on bathroom stall wall gaps. Summarizing the solutions in that article, the panel edge gaps can be addressed by:
All gender toilet partition design needs to factor in possible hardware, accessory, and other considerations, which are covered in this section.
Occupancy indicators are essential for stalls with high privacy. Most stall door hinges can be set to hold the door slightly open when a stall is unoccupied. In theory, this sounds like it would make other occupancy indicators unnecessary. However, outswing doors (like most wheelchair accessible stall doors) are often set to the fully closed position when unoccupied. This is done so the door does not protrude into access routes.
Even if all the doors were set to be ajar when unoccupied, restroom patrons often do not know unoccupied stall doors will be ajar, so they wind up pushing on doors or trying to look through gaps to check for occupancy. Occupancy indicators eliminate the ambiguity of this scenario.
Restrooms with sanitary napkin dispensers will need to consider providing dispensers for all the stalls in that venue. Similarly, purse holders may be needed in every stall.
Toilet partitions with small or no gaps may require dedicated ventilation per stall. Louvered stall doors can help address this issue.
Toilet partitions with small or no gaps at the ceiling may require dedicated fire detection, visual annunciators, and fire suppression equipment per stall.
Toilet partitions with small or no gaps at the floor may require more drains in the restroom or even one drain per stall. Note that one drain per stall may also be specified so that all the doors in a restroom can have minimal floor gaps.
Toilet partitions with small gaps or no gaps at the ceiling may require per-stall lighting.
Highly private toilet partitions may result in occupants abusing that privacy with illegal or inappropriate activities. Some plans may be needed to anticipate these activities, should they become a problem.
The all gender considerations discussed in this article increase the cost of toilet stalls when compared with more traditional stall designs. Not only does the height of all gender stalls require more material, but the panels for stalls deeper than 60 inches (1524 mm) will usually require costly splices or an additional pilaster in-line with the panel. This is because the materials used to build panels rarely come in sheets wider than 60 inches (1524 mm).
All gender stalls may also require more hardware, more accessories, more plumbing, and more electrical work.
Finally, the installation of oversized components and extra components like bracket covers and transoms can be expected to increase the installation labor costs relative to standard toilet partition installations.
There are many good articles out there on all gender restroom design. We have found this white paper by the Cuningham Group to be very insightful. We also like this short set of guidelines from the University of Pennsylvania, particularly the idea of having a duress alarm inside the stalls and in the larger bathroom. Finally, we recommend this longer article on restroom privacy in the Construction Specifier magazine.
If you have questions about all gender toilet partition design or would like to explore possibilities, please feel free to contact us. We would be happy to collaborate with you.