Regulations on sizing, safety measures, and other considerations change and evolve over time. This comes into play pretty regularly for older buildings where the owner is looking to modernize the amenities.

Here’s a recent example of a case where there are some extra considerations.

We were talking with a gentleman with a commercial space featuring some doorways less than 30 inches wide — a width that is now a requirement. Older buildings are grandfathered in, but to remodel the building to modernize it would also mean the building would become subject to current regulations unless those doorways were also changed.

That changed a job that may have been less than $10k into one that may have to be considerably more.

He asked what would happen if we didn’t worry about the doorways and just proceeded with everything else we’d discussed.

We had to explain to him that doorways less than 30 inches wide are not wheelchair accessible, and among other things if that was ever reported he’d be facing fines by the city, state inspectors, and possibly even OSHA. Those would not be small fines, either.

And not to belabor the point, but that door issue could open the business up to a personal lawsuit as well if a wheelchair user found themselves unable to access customer areas of the building.

It’s certainly frustrating to be in that situation and to have been planning on a remodel project of a certain dollar amount, only to discover that it will likely be a far greater project.

Proper Clearance for Loading Equipment and Teams

One other example came up while reviewing construction drawings of a large retail space.

The priority was to create a studio space as large as possible, and whoever had drawn the mock-up had obviously reasoned that hallway and storage spaces on the outskirts could easily be compromised in order to allow more square footage in the primary space.

Unfortunately they didn’t take into account that the hallways would be so narrow that employees would not be able to carry equipment or maneuver carts to carry incoming products etc.

As widths go, there are standard requirements here as well.

Consulting with an experienced builder is helpful before jumping into these types of projects for exactly this reason: it’s tough to think of everything ahead of time, and once you’ve started it can be tough to adjust.