Modular, temporary, portable, and relocatable classrooms are all alternatives to
conventional stick-built school buildings for elementary, secondary, and post
secondary applications when districts are faced with increasing enrollment and
budget restraints in areas that have high growth rates.
Temporary classrooms are a good solution for the short term until more
permanent school buildings can be erected. In fact, the modular classrooms can
be incorporated into industrialized modular units to form permanent elementary,
secondary, and post secondary schools with the electrical, mechanical, plumbing
and HVAC completely installed in the modular units, constructing a complete
school on a permanent foundation.
Industrialized modular and modular classroom construction, however, must meet
strict federal, state, and local guidelines. These guidelines include
conformance to a national building, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing codes,
plus functional requirements for the modular units.
Functional requirements are typically accessibility standards, which are
derived from the federal standard, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a
civil rights law prohibiting discrimination of persons with disabilities, which
provides laws and specifications of building elements for construction of
public places, such as schools, so that students with disabilities have
facilities that are readily accessible and usable. The ADA is a law only and is
not to be used as a model code but a guideline.
For states and local building code enforcement agencies that have adopted model
codes, such as the national building code, the ADA guidelines for
accessibilities are incorporated into the model code using reference standards,
such as the CABO/ANSI A117.1, Accessible and Usable Building Facilities, for
attaining accessibility compliance.
Under the CABO/ANSI A117.1 standard, accessible and usable building facilities,
such as modular classrooms, classrooms shall be provided with five components.
1. An Accessible Entrance on an Accessible Route
Each accessible entrance on an accessible route shall not have a walking
surface slope greater than 1:20. The accessible clear width for 90 degree turns
shall be 36" minimum and when an obstruction is
encountered, a minimum clear space of 42" x 48" is required. Ramps on
accessible routes shall be a minimum of 36" with a slope not steeper than 1:12
and the ramp run rise shall be 30" maximum. The landing at ramps shall be as
wide as the widest ramp leading to it and the landing length of 60" minimum
clear. When the ramps change direction at landings, however, a 60" x 60"
minimum landing is required. All ramps with a rise of 6" and a run greater than
72" shall have continuous handrails on both sides of the ramp at a 34" minimum
and 38" maximum height above the landing surface and 12" minimum extended
handrails at the top and bottom of ramp runs.
2. Usable Doors
All doorways shall have a clear width of 32" minimum when the door is opened 90
degrees. The hardware on accessible doors shall have operable parts with a
shape that is easy to grasp and usable from both sides of the door. The
threshold at the doorways shall be a minimum of 1/2" high, if applicable. Each
door shall have a maneuvering clearance of 18" beyond the latch side of the
door for a front approach on the pull side of the door and a 60" minimum
clearance perpendicular to the door.
3. Accessible Elements Inside the Classroom
Drinking fountains and water coolers shall have accessible spouts 36" above the
finish floor and within 3" of the front edge. Clearances under the water cooler
shall be provided with knee and toe clearances. Accessible seating spaces and
surfaces shall be provided for wheelchair accessibility.
4. Accessible Locations for Electrical Devices & Controls
Electrical switches, receptacles and thermostat devices shall be mounted a
maximum of 48" above the floor for a forward unobstructed approach and a low
forward reach of 15" above the floor. An unobstructed parallel approach shall
be 54" maximum above the floor with a low side reach above the floor of 15"
minimum for the devices.
5. Accessible Bathrooms
Doors to accessible bathrooms without stalls shall not swing onto the clear
floor space of the fixture, provided a 30" x 48" clear space is provided beyond
the arc of the door swing. If a stall is provided, a minimum of 60" wide and
56" deep stall is required for a wall hung water closet and if the door swings
into the stall, the required depth shall be increased 36" minimum.
The lavatory accessible fixtures shall be mounted 34" above the floor with 29"
clearance minimum from the floor to the bottom of the apron. The fixture shall
have the proper knee and toe clearance. The faucet shall be a single handle
Grab bars for accessible toilet stalls shall be located on the wall closet to
the water closet and the rear wall with minimum dimensions of 42" and 24",
Mirror over lavatories shall be a minimum of 38" above the floor to the bottom
edge of the mirror
The five components listed above are not a complete list of accessibility, but
the minimum requirements for accomplishing accessibility. Additional
accessibility requirements are storage, such as closets and lockers, detectable
warning signs, directional signs, and kitchens. In addition, state and local
jurisdictions, as well as, the educational review board can amend certain
requirements of the model codes and accessibility standards as well.
Note: Dimensions and facts
derived for the accessible components were taken from the CABO/ANSI A117.1
Gorleski is field service representative for
PFS Corporation in Bloomsburg, Pa.
Copyright © Modular Building Institute, March 2001.