It is a Jungle Out There

We completed a tenant office build-out for the Veterans Administration. Being a Federal agency, we knew at the start that the design would need to be based upon more stringent governmental ADA requirements than the Indiana Building Code.  The VA has their own super-stringent ADA requirements that supersede the federal and state standards. To meet the VA requirements, offset hinges had to be placed on every door to obtain minimum clearance, the corridors had to be wider than normal, and the restroom stalls are required to be bigger in each direction. If we had not identified these “hidden” requirements early on, the liability to try and “fix-it” later could have been very costly. This is just the latest example of hidden regulations and codes we have dealt with through the years. In other words, “It is a Jungle Out There…” Here are a couple more examples:

  • While designing an expansion at a church camp, we discovered that the Indiana Department of Health’s Sanitary Code had jurisdiction since that agency regulates and licenses all camp facilities in the state. The Sanitary Code has a section specifically for camps that contains requirements for egress windows in sleeping rooms, exit signs, emergency lighting, and even interior finish materials that are all more stringent than the Indiana Building code.
  • When looking at designing a small two-story building for a small town in Indiana, we determined that because it would house a government agency, ADA Title II requirements would need to be followed, in addition to the Indiana Building Code. The big liability in this case is that state code does not require installing an elevator to provide handicap access to the second floor; ADA Title II does require an elevator, which costs $65,000.00.
  • We were called in to look at a surgery center that had been built in an existing medical office building. It had been open for over a year and just had their first yearly inspection by the Indiana Department of Health, since that organization regulates and licenses critical care medical facilities. The inspector threatened to close the facility down because the design and construction did not meet NFPA 101 Life Safety Code requirements that are a part of the Department of Health licensing. The Architect of the build-out had followed all of the applicable Indiana Building Code Requirements, but did not design to the NFPA Life Safety Code. The Life Safety Code is much more stringent than the state code with respect to fire separations, emergency & egress lighting, door hardware, and egress stair design. In this case, the liability to the designer and building owner would be very costly.

I tell these “horror stories” in order to let you know that in this time of ever increasing governmental regulation, it can be a dense jungle to try and fight through to understand what requirements your building really needs to meet. It has gotten so it takes an experienced specialist to identify and respond to these hidden codes and regulations. Please contact us if we can help you avoid being lost in the jungle on future building projects.

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