Buildings in the public sector have to cater for a range of visitors, including those with mobility issues, and, with an ageing population, this requirements is only set to increase. Ensuring hospitals, care homes, schools and other public buildings are accessible to everybody is Part M of the Building Regulations, with subsection, Doc M, covering bathrooms specifically. Georgina Spencer, Marketing Manager for Roca, explains what installers and specifiers need to know when it comes to creating bathrooms suitable for all building visitors.
About Part M
Part M applies to all new non-domestic buildings, existing non-domestic buildings undergoing alterations, or change of use to a public building, as well as new builds with downstairs WCs. The drive behind this standard is to ensure that these spaces are usable by all members of the public; be they in a wheelchair, or simply carrying heavy bags.
Taking into consideration the requirements of the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act), Part M imposes duties on employers, trade organisations, service providers and landlords, addressing the practical use of a site; from the plot boundary, in terms of gaining access, through to the usability of each room.
With 18% of the population having a mobility issue and the number of over 85s set to double by 2030, Part M is key for creating an inclusive society.
Bathrooms for all users
The bathroom is an essential convenience, one that everyone has a right to access. Making sure this space is user friendly for a variety of visitors allows independence to be maintained for some of society’s most vulnerable groups.
Document M (a sub-section of Part M) provides guidance on bathrooms situated on the level where daytime living occurs – i.e. ground floor conveniences in public buildings. The key elements of this guidance are as follows:
- Accessible WCs must be provided with an outward opening door
- A wheelchair should be able to approach within 400mm of the WC pan with sufficient space to manoeuvre
- There must be adequate space to transfer from a wheelchair to the loo seat (750 mm is advised)
- As the basin has the potential for obstructing the approach of a wheel chair and the transfer to the loo, clearances above and below the sink are critical
- Space should not be reduced by obstructions such as radiators, with a preferred minimum compartment of 1000mm
- If a WC is located beneath the stairs a practical headroom height is required – 2m at the front of the pan is considered reasonable
- Finger basins should be adjacent to WCs to enable easy hand washing while sat down
Ambulant bathroom users
Doc M is not just about making bathrooms usable for those with mobility issues, it also covers ambulant users, which includes the visually impaired and mothers with children. In conveniences with multiple WCs, at least one cubicle should meet the criteria for ambulant users. The colour of the seat, rails and walls should be contrasting and grab rails must be fitted next to the WC, basin and the inside of the door.
Shower vs bath
In most cases, a shower is easier for users with mobility issues to access – particularly those in a wheel chair. As such, according to Doc M, where bedrooms are included, an en-suite is preferable, with at least as many en-suite showers as general bathrooms. Where baths are installed, a transferable seat should feature. Safety is key, with thermostatic taps ideal for preventing scalding.
In general, the flooring must be slip resistant when wet, with room doors opening outwards including a horizontal closing bar on the inside face. An emergency assistance pull chord should also be included. Controls, switches and socket outlets should be located in an accessible zone between 450-1200mm above floor level, including light switches.
Fit for the future bathrooms
Creating buildings that meet the needs of a range of users is essential. In the domestic sector, this approach can enhance quality of life and allow people to stay in their own properties for longer – something that benefits the end user and the economy at large, with home improvements much less financially draining than putting people in a care facility. With an ageing population, Part M will become increasingly important so building managers, specifiers and installers must ensure they familiarise themselves with this Building Regulation.
Roca provides a range of Doc M packs, including the sanitaryware, brassware and grab rails needed to comply with the building regulation.