Not enough space?

Quite often, when discussing changing places toilets with new people, the size of the room comes up, and often becomes a bit of a sticking point!

To be fair, in isolation, at 12 sqm a changing places toilet does sound quite large, particularly if you are comparing it to an individual toilet cubicle, or even a standard accessible toilet.  But then that’s one of the main reasons many people need a changing places toilet rather than one of the other type of toilets, simply because they can’t get in to the smaller rooms!

(Follow this link to a post I wrote previously about how accessible the average accessible toilet is).

When people get stuck talking about the floor area a changing places takes up, it sometimes feels as though they forget that all toilets take up floor area (and cost money to install!) – even the inaccessible ones!  But they do take up space, and quite a lot of it!  If you visualise a standard women’s toilets for example, the cubicle is just one element, there’s also the space needed for the vanity unit, with bank of wash hand basins, and the circulation space in between the two.  And then you’ll also have the mens loos, at least one standard accessible toilet (hopefully!) and perhaps (depending on the building type and location) a baby change or family room too, which is often a similar size to a changing places toilet!

All those other toilets have limited access, whereas a changing places toilet, is very accessible!  Changing places toilets are generally considered the add on, taking up extra space, but I think we are looking at things the wrong way round.

If there’s only space for a few toilets in a venue, why not start with the most accessible and add the least accessible rather than the other way around?

I’m a bit of a numbers geek, so I decided to try and think of spaces that people know really well, to help visualise the area required by a changing places in context with something familiar, and, do you know, one of the simplest of things many of us use everyday is, give or take 0.5 sqm, exactly the same area as a changing places toilet!?

A car park parking space.

Hand sketch of a changing places toilet in the proportions of a car parking space, overlaid on a photo of a car park

Not a blue badge space, or an on street parking space (which are actually a bit longer) or even the slightly more generous kind that some car parks now provide to accommodate bigger modern cars…. nope!…. a totally bog standard (excuse the pun!) minimum size car parking space is 2.4 m x 4.8 m, which is 11.5 sqm in area!

A space most of us take for granted.

Car parks occupy massive amounts of space (sometimes in multi-storey structures or excavated basements underneath buildings which involve reinforced structures, car ramps and all sorts of expensive engineering just to enable us to leave our cars occupying a space while we’re not even there!)!  …. so when the reason given for not installing a toilet in a building or venue (a toilet that most people could use!), is lack of space, I really have to wonder…!

P.s. The above graphic isn’t about adding changing places toilets into car parks, its a comparison of the size of a changing places toilet in context with the size of a space we are all very familiar with!  However it does bring to mind the image of those mobile toilets provided in trailers for temporary events!   So if you are organising an event, please do take note that a changing places toilet does fit in a trailer too, and there are a couple of suppliers who can provide mobile options that you can hire to make your event truly accessible!


6 Replies to “Not enough space?”

  1. Hallo: I’m the founder of Public Toilets UK, a campaign to increase toilet access for EVERYONE! I’ve just found your website via Twitter and really like your depiction of how a car parking space is only a tad smaller than a CP space. I’ve visited a few CP facilities and am in touch with various organisations who are associated with various types of disability – both hidden and visible.
    I have a temporary mobility problem [and also IBS] and it’s opened my eyes to the problems of getting about.
    I’m also reasonably familiar with BS8300 but have yet to come across a fully compliant accessible toilet whether in a hospital or even in Parliament!
    If you’d like to receive a copy of the Public Toilets UK monthly newsletter which includes all sorts of issues related to toilets I’d be pleased to add you to our distributions list. It’s free! Our supporters include various charities, companies, individuals, university projects etc.
    You may also like to follow us on facebook I’m also on Twitter @atoileteer

  2. I like the comparison. And did you know that (as a rough rule-of-thumb) each off-street parking space actually takes about 30 sq.m per car space? That’s after adding in all the aisles, turning spaces, pillars etc.

    Worse if the parking facility has an odd shape or is on a small site.

    1. Wow! Although it doesn’t really surprise me!
      I guess you could say the same for rooms within a building, as they require circulation, but even the biggest of wheelchairs has a smaller turning circle than a car! So all in, the space requirements for a changing places toilet are much smaller than the space needed per car to access and park in a car park!

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