ADA Requirements for Commercial Building & Existing Facilities

ADA Requirements for Commercial Building & Existing Facilities

If you are considering updating your office space, you may need to familiarize yourself with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Essentially, the ADA ensures access to a built environment that accommodates people with disabilities. In other words, ADA requirements for existing buildings need to be implemented to ensure that all individuals, regardless of ability, can use a building with minimal impediment.

The ADA Standards have been established to create design requirements for the construction and alteration of facilities subject to the law.  These enforceable standards apply to many places that include areas of public accommodation, commercial facilities, and local and state government facilities.

Failure to comply with ADA building compliance can lead to lead to serious financial penalties, which can start as much as $55,000 to $75,000 for a first-time violation, and a second violation rising to $110,000 to $150,000.

Additionally, failure to comply may also lead to liability issues that may result in costly litigation. Therefore, it is in your best interest to stick to best-practices for your upcoming commercial construction and renovation projects.

In this article, we will look at what you need to do, with an ADA checklist for existing facilities provided to ensure that your buildings are up to code when renovating commercial buildings.

ADA Requirements for Commercial Buildings

Because the highly-trafficked commercial buildings encounter the largest portion of disabled individuals, special care should be reserved to make your business compliant with ADA requirements.


Here are just a few of the ADA requirements for commercial buildings that you may encounter when planning your upgrade:

  • Installing accessible hardware on doors
  • Upgrading public and company bathrooms (see below)
  • Accessible parking
  • Increasing the width of door frames to allow wheelchairs
  • Adjusting water fountains for all individuals, including wheelchairs
  • Replacing problematic flooring that may restrict or impede mobility
  • Railings or grab bars in appropriate locations
  • ADA handicap ramps or creating curb cuts at entrances/exits (up to 60% of entrances/exits much be ADA compliant)
  • Rearranging furniture, furnishings, and other features to reduce barriers to service

If you are looking for a comprehensive resource, the ADA has provided a full of its full list of regulations pertaining to specific matters to adhere to ADA requirements for commercial buildings.

ADA Requirements for Existing Buildings

Retrofitting and remodeling an existing building for ADA upgrades can be a difficult task, often requiring significant time and adherence to specifications to accommodate disabled individuals.

Buildings built before 1990 face a different set of challenges, which are described in ADA’s Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities (Title III). Essentially, Title III states there must be accommodations made for existing buildings to remove architectural barriers unless it can be shown that removing a barrier is not “readily achievable” or accommodations can’t be made through other means.

The concept of “readily achievable” is subject to debate, but the language of Title III readily achievable as “easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.”

Some factors to be considered in determining whether barrier removal is readily achievable include:

  • The cost of the required barrier removal
  • The financial resources of the involved facility or facilities
  • The number of people employed by the facility
  • The effect on the facility’s expenses and resources
  • Impact on the operation of the facility
  • Overall finances of the covered entity
  • The number of employees in the covered entity
  • The number type and location of its facilities
  • The type of operations of the covered entity, including the composition, structure and functions of its workforce
  • The geographic, administrative or fiscal relationship of the facilities at issue to the covered entity.

Furthermore, there are 21 suggestions given for how you can bring your existing building up to code:

  • Installing ramps
  • Making curb cuts in sidewalks and entrances;
  • Repositioning shelves;
  • Rearranging tables, chairs, vending machines, display racks, and other furniture;
  • Repositioning telephones;
  • Adding raised markings on elevator control buttons;
  • Installing flashing alarm lights;
  • Widening doors
  • Installing offset hinges to widen doorways
  • Eliminating a turnstile or providing an alternative accessible path
  • Installing accessible door hardware
  • Installing grab bars in toilet stalls
  • Rearranging toilet partitions to increase maneuvering space
  • Insulating lavatory pipes under sinks to prevent burns
  • Installing a raised toilet seat
  • Installing a full-length bathroom mirror
  • Repositioning the paper towel dispenser in a bathroom
  • Creating designated accessible parking spaces
  • Installing an accessible paper cup dispenser at an existing inaccessible water fountain
  • Removing high pile, low density carpeting
  • Installing vehicle hand controls

ADA Office Requirements

ADA office requirements follow similar standards to the previous adjustments to facilities, while also including additional measures to ensure that offices are usable for all individuals regardless of physical ability. To make your ADA office space compliant, you will need to do the following:

  • All doors should be at least 32’’wide in order to provide adequate space for individuals to pass through.
  • Office doors must be wide enough to accommodate those who use mobility devices such as wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
  • Heavy doors that require more than 5 pounds of force to operate need to provide additional assistance, such as an easily-accessible push-button to open or close.
  • Conference table or desk should be at least 27’’ high to allow room for those in mobility devices to easily sit at the table without bumping their knees.

However, small businesses that employ 14 or fewer full-time employees do not have to be ADA compliant. Additionally, businesses that have been operating for less than 20 weeks are allowed a grace period to become compliant.

ADA Compliant Reception Desk

Perhaps one of the most forgotten aspects of making your building follow code is by having an ADA compliant reception desk. The ADA reception desk requirements include:

  • Counters with a cash register require a section of the counter must be at least 36’’ long and not more than 36’’ inches above the floor.
  • Sales and service counters require a counter that is least 36’’ long and not more than 36’’ above the floor. If achievable, provide a nearby auxiliary counter, use a folding shelf or area next to the counter. There must be a clear floor space in front of the accessible surface that permits a customer using a wheelchair to pull alongside. This space is at least 30’’ by 48’’ and may be perpendicular or parallel to the counter. This must also be connected to the accessible route that connects to the accessible entrance and other areas in the business where services or merchandise are provided.

ADA Bathroom Requirements for Commercial Buildings


Restroom requirements for commercial buildings are a necessary concern to ensure compliance with guidelines and ensure that basic needs of all patrons are met for an ADA commercial bathroom. Therefore, let’s look at the most common ADA commercial bathroom requirements including:

  • Toilets:
    • A toilet seat must be at the height of 17’’ – 19’’.
    • The center line of the toilet must be between 16’’ and 18’’ from the side wall.
  • Sinks:
    • 30’’ by 48’’ access to the sink (the door must not swing into this rectangle).
    • Sinks should not be mounted 34’’ from the floor, and they should have a knee clearance of 27’’ high, 30’’ wide, and 11’’ to 25’’ deep. The measurement starts from the point where a person has 27’’ vertical clearance for their knees and a 9’’ vertical clearance for their feet.
    • Additionally, there must be a clear floor space and insulated pipes underneath the sink.
  • Stalls:
    • A clear circle of at least 60’’ around the side wall and 56’’ from the rear wall to allow a wheelchair to turn (the door cannot swing into the minimum required area for wheelchair-accessible toilet compartments).
    • Urinals should be wall-hung or stall-type at a maximum of 17’’ from the floor.
    • Water closets must be 17’’ to 19’’ from the floor (the measurement begins from the floor to the top of the toilet seat).
    • Flush valves must be easy to manipulate, not requiring tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist.
    • Grab bars should be at least 36’’ long on the rear wall or 42’’ on the side wall and be mounted 33’’ to 36’’ inches above the floor. Grab bars must also have a gripping surface of at least 1.25’’, mounted at least 1.5’’ from the wall, and be able to withstand a minimum of 250 pounds of pressure.

Contact Rise Construction for Your Commercial Construction Needs

If you feel that your building isn’t up to code, don’t worry: Rise Construction is here to help.

Consult Rise Construction to ensure that your building is compliant with the ADA’s specific regulations. The expert builders here at Rise Construction have extensive professional experience in renovating buildings, whether this includes a simple commercial build-out or a complete Houston office build-out compliant with the ADA’s specific codes and regulations.

Contact us for a quote today!

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