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ADA profile: a multi-tenant office building.

We will focus our study on a midtown Manhattan office building to inform building owners, managers and architects of the process required to bring a -commercial facility into compliance with the provisions of-the Americans with Disabilities Act. This study will cover an actual compliance survey, implementation plan, and the barrier removal process required by Title III of the American with Disabilities Act. The process is not complex; however, sound decisions must be backed by professional written documentation.

The building's survey consisted of observing, recording and comparing the existing physical entities with the ADA Design Guidelines for new construction. The actual physical items that were surveyed included, but were not limited to, access routes, surface finishes, inclined surfaces and stairs, elevators, controls, permanent signage, obstructions and clearances, doorways, hardware, alarms systems, and rest rooms components. In particular, the access route to each individual tenant in this facility encompassed following a public sidewalk through a private plaza into an enclosed ground floor lobby, up one of two elevator banks to a tenant floor, and across the corridor to end at the tenant entry door. Other areas surveyed were access to ground floor retail spaces, the building managers' office, and access to the employee areas (not the work areas themselves as these are covered under the employment section Title I of ADA).

This particular office building performed its Facility Compliance Survey in December of 1991 to comply with the Jan. 26, 1992 ADA compliance date. The management selected our architecture office because of its knowledge with both New York City Local Law 58 of 87, the ADA law, and the accessible design standards. The intent of the law is to provide the greatest accessibility to the most number of people. The priority of our actual survey was structured the same as the law: Access to the facility, access to goods and services; routes of travel and signage, access to rest rooms, and all other items.

This buildings' compliance survey revealed a number of physical barriers that required alteration or removal to be in compliance with the ADDAG standards for new construction. All existing facilities are compared with what could be created in new construction. However, as this facility was existing, the laws "Readily Achievable Standard" which based upon structural and fiscal limitations was used as our guide. The owners, through its implementation team, used our compliance survey, the ADA laws' guidelines, and the building's yearly financial projections to determine those barrier removals which could be accomplished in this and succeeding years. The owners were aware that preparing a plan without actual implementation was not the intent of the law. The law creates an ongoing responsibility to the present and future owners. As a result, some lending institutions have started to require as a condition of a loan that the facility be in compliance with the ADA.

Based upon the findings of the implementation plan access to the buildings' lobby was the number one priority. The public presently entered by either two revolving doors or two manual swing doors. The entry is through a covered plaza that has a high wind pressure problem. The solution that was arrived at was to provide one swing door with an automatic opening device controlled by a exterior user switch and directional signage. This barrier removal has already taken place.

Next in the barrier removal process, the lobby staff received sensitivity training to recognize and assist members of the public who might need guidance to get to a tenant's space. The elevators are the next leg of the access route in this office building and had only one barrier that needed removal. There was no visual two way emergency communication system. The suggested solution was to install a red LED linked to the audio speaker that would activate together. This would be coupled with proper signage. This item is under review. Once on the tenant floors, the floor surfaces and clearances where found to comply. Most of the door hardware was tenant selected. Tenants were instructed to change to lever doors controls as soon as practical. Furthermore, the Management has changed both the lease and work letter clauses, and requires that all new tenants comply with the ADDAG standards for their entire space.

The survey concluded that the tenant floor rest rooms required alterations to bring them within the guidelines standard. There are three rest rooms that were created when the building was constructed to be accessible. Temporary signage was to be installed to guide persons to those floors while design of accessible rest rooms was underway. After it was determined by the implementation team that all rest rooms were to be altered, the architect and contractor discussed the most cost effective means to "Readily Achievable Compliance." It was found that to relocate toilet roughing 1.5 inches was not cost effective as a greater number of more usable barrier removals could take place with the available finances. The following items were selected for alteration: to increase stall width, install grab bars and accessible controls, provide wide stall doors, create under sink clearance/ insulate pipes and install a lever facet. Drawings for these changes have been prepared. Groups of rest rooms are being budgeted for alteration over the next few years.

In our multi-tenant office building case study the aforementioned accessible barriers and the order of their removal were the result of a complete facility compliance survey. The survey was reviewed by the owners' implementation team who then determined how this facility could maximize its compliance with the American with Disabilities Act Title III knowing its available financial resources and how they could be allocated for barrier removal design changes. The entire process is being documented carefully for use should a legal challenge arise.

To ease the construction permit portion of the ADA process the New York City Department of Buildings is willing to work with building industry groups and architects to create a one sheet application for ADA compliance work that can be filed with drawings by mail for acceptance and issuance of a work permit.

In summary, the compliance process with the American with Disabilities Act is an ongoing requirement. The practicality of this law takes many different forms. Sound judgement, by the architect performing the survey and in the design of any physical changes and the other team members preparing the implementation plan, is what will determine how this law effects the quality of our built environment for all persons. An accessible build ing is not just accessible for persons with disabilities as defined by the law, but for persons of all ages and limitations. Accessibility is good for business.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Architecture & Interior Design; includes advice on requirements for compliance with Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990
Author:Dorfman, Hal A.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Dec 16, 1992
Previous Article:Law firms trim budgets, not style.
Next Article:Re-drawing lines on existing properties.

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