The ADA Upgrade “Trigger Event”

Planning to re-model or give your existing building or facility a face-lift? Do you have new tenants moving in or existing tenants preparing for an interior remodel or expansion project soon?

If either of these two circumstances apply to you, you need to know that the area being altered is required to meet new construction standards for accessibility.

Federal ADA as well as California's Title 24 requires upgrades to the Path Of Travel and certain accessible elements when making changes to a specific area. This is called the "Specific Area of Alteration" clause.

For interior remodels, these elements consist of doors, door hardware, thresholds, pounds of pressure to operate the door, signage, drinking fountains, and the closest restroom along the route from the altered area.

For exterior remodels, these elements consist of an "off site" path of travel connection to the public sidewalk, accessible path of travel at the affected area, the nearest disabled parking, curb ramps, striping and signage along the route of the altered area.

If the cost for making these additional "interior" or "exterior" elements accessible exceeds 20% of construction costs then a "disproportionate cost" may be determined.
Per the ADA, the additional amount you are required to spend over the construction costs would be maximum 20%.

In California, if the cost exceeds the cost threshold, then a minimum 20% additional is required.

Currently the 2013 cost Threshold is $139,934.00 and continues to increase every January.
If the construction budget is over this amount, and this is computed over a three-year period, then all Path Of Travel elements supporting the space are required to be accessible regardless of cost.

So in California, the additional amount you are required to spend over construction costs would be 20% if it is below the cost threshold. If it's over this value, then all supporting elements need to be made accessible.

The new 2010 ADA states "Alterations made to provide an accessible path of travel to the altered area will be deemed disproportionate to the overall alteration when the cost exceeds 20% of the cost of the alteration to the primary function area."

This includes upper floors in buildings that do not provide an elevator. The priority of these elements is as follows:

  • An accessible entrance;
  • An accessible route to the altered area;
  • At least one accessible restroom for each sex or a single unisex restroom;
  • Accessible telephones;
  • Accessible drinking fountains; and
  • Additional accessible elements such as parking, storage, and alarms.NOTE: if the alteration is for the sole purpose of "Barrier Removal", then there is no additional 20% additional cost required above the construction cost.

Items that do NOT trigger the upgrade clause are maintenance repair projects which consist of:

  • heating
  • ventilation and air conditioning
  • re-roofing
  • electrical work not involving placement of switches and receptacles
  • cosmetic work that does not affect items regulated by this code, such as painting
  • equipment not considered to be a part of the architecture of the building or area, such as computer terminals, office equipment, etc.

These are items not considered alteration projects for the purposes of accessibility for persons with disabilities and shall not be subject to this code unless they affect the usability of the building or facility.

The term "construction cost" does not include building permit fees or discretionary permit fees. The only purpose of this exception is to exclude projects from activating the provisions of this section. The exceptions are not intended to relieve projects from complying with other applicable provisions of this code (e.g., replacement of carpet does not activate ‘the provisions of this section; however, it still must comply with new construction standards.

If you have any questions about what exactly required for your up coming project, please feel free to contact us before starting your project.