New regulations mandate single-sex toilet provisions in workplaces and public buildings, writes Andrew Mellor

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The government recently published a new requirement in Schedule 1 of the Building Regulations 2010 entitled requirement T1, which relates to toilet provision in buildings which are not dwellings. Other excluded typologies include schools, nurseries, care homes or ensuite facilities in student accommodation.

It is apt but coincidental that requirement T relates to toilets - T is the next available letter in the sequence of Regulations. The legislation has been introduced to ensure the safety and privacy of those using toilets in newly created workplaces and publicly accessible buildings.

Alongside the amended regulations, a new Approved Document T has been published and associated amendments to Approved Documents G (Sanitation, hot water safety and water efficiency) and M Volume 2 (Access to and the use of buildings).

The new requirement and the guidance will take effect on 1 October 2024 and does not apply to buildings where a building regulations full plans application, initial notice or building notice has been given to the building control authority before that date and where the work has started on site and either has been sufficiently progressed or will be so within six months from 1 October.

The Part T requirements have been introduced after a lengthy period of research, analysis and consultation by DLUHC. The initial call for evidence in 2020 resulted in over 17,000 responses from industry and wider societal groups. I understand that this number of responses in relation to Building Regulations is unprecedented and given the number and importance of the matter being considered, the government had to prioritise the policy development work. Following the call for evidence the government made an announcement in July 2022 that it planned to change Building Regulations to include requirements for separate toilets for men and women, provision of unisex toilets where space allowed and that these latter facilities must ensure privacy for users.

The privacy and safety of those using universal toilets must be carefully considered

One of the aims of the policy changes is to ensure that in new developments, persons of both sexes are not using toilets or wash hand basins within the same room at the same time. This puts an end to the scenario of communal wash hand basins within a space accessed by both sexes as is currently found in, for example, some bars, hotels and clubs.

The new requirement is for single-sex toilets with single-sex shared hand-wash facilities or with basins in the toilet cubicles. This requirement is first and foremost. Universal toilets for use by both sexes can be provided in addition to the single-sex toilets - these will be single rooms or cubicles with integral basins. If space restrictions will not allow the provision of single-sex toilets, universal toilets can be provided only.

The privacy and safety of those using universal toilets must be carefully considered and this includes wayfinding and toilet identification signage. The requirements of the Workplace Regulations, Building Regulations Part M and Part G must still also be considered as well as any sector specific guidance relating to toilet provision.

Approved Document T provides guidance on ambulant and universal toilet cubicle sizing and design. It also includes guidance on wayfinding and signage. There is no definition on ‘space restrictions’ and it is expected that this will need to be interpreted on a building by building basis. One expects that this alternative approach will not apply to large buildings but only to buildings such as small retail units and small light industrial units where space is more restricted.

Parts Q, R, S and now T have been introduced into the Building Regulations in recent years to respond to societal and technology changes as well as safety and security concerns. One wonders what Part U will relate to and when that will be published. With only six letters of the alphabet remaining, the government will soon have to consider what the seventh forthcoming new Building Regulation will be titled, if in fact it is needed.