2021 International Plumbing Code Updates - Significant Changes

2021 International Plumbing Code Updates - Significant Changes

Posted by David Sunbury on Jul 2nd 2021

The 2021 International Plumbing Code (IPC) addresses a host of issues, including two significant changes that Architects and Facility Planners need to know for calculating minimum fixture requirements. Errors in these calculations can delay permits or delay a certificate of occupancy, so it is important to stay current.

Single user unisex bathrooms have been permissible for years for small stores and spaces with less than 15 occupants. Larger spaces have needed to provide fixtures assuming 50% male and 50% female, and then rounded up to a whole number if the minimum fixture is a fractional number. If the minimum men’s toilets needed is 1.01 WC, then 2 are required.

In the 2021 IPC multiple-user toilet facilities to serve all genders are permitted based on the total number of occupants, if privacy is maintained. All Gender Restroom SignThis addresses concerns of the transgender, gender-neutral community and others. To maintain privacy, the code stipulates that water closets would still have to be provided in separate, private compartments, and urinals either have to be visually separated from the other parts of the area or also be in separate stalls.

Reading segments directly from the code:
Restroom Facilities-IPC Code Section 403.2 Separate Facilities
Where plumbing fixtures are required, separate facilities shall be provided for each sex.
Exceptions .. (1-4 are unchanged from prior years, and primarily apply to smaller spaces)
5. Separate facilities shall not be required to be designated by sex where single-user toilet rooms are provided in accordance with Section 403.1.2
6. Separate facilities shall not be required to be designated by sex where rooms having both water closets and lavatory fixtures are designed for use by both sexes and privacy for water closets is provided in accordance with Section 405.3.4. Urinals shall be located in an area visually separated from the remainder of the facility or each urinal that is provided shall be located in a stall.

Fixture quantity requirements for shared, multi-user facilities are calculated based on total population instead of separately for each sex. Generally, this will result in one fewer fixture being required for larger buildings, per example shown below:

Fixture Calculation

Drinking Fountain Changes-2021 IPC Code Sections 410.3.2 and 410.4

A hi-low drinking fountain configuration has been an ADA requirement for some time to ensure access for those who can not bend over easily (e.g, tall, elderly in some cases) and those who can not reach high fountains easily (e.g, if in wheelchairs). In occupancies other than restaurants and where 3 or more drinking fountains are required (e.g., large grocery stores), ‘water dispensers’ are allowed to be substituted for up to 50% of the additional quantity of fixtures needed. In the past, this allowed for bottled water dispensers, but now, the definition states that such fixtures must be connected to the building water piping. This means bottled water dispensers cannot be provided to meet minimum requirements in the 2021 Code.


This new code is likely to take effect in 2022 in some jurisdictions, albeit with local modifications.

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