Re: ADA Compliance - Americans with Disabilities Act
From: Jim Snyder-Grant (
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 06:58:02 -0600 (MDT)
At New View (Acton MA) or common house was considered a public building by
the town. The expectation of our architect was that the town would consider
it that way, so it's hard to figure the costs - we never came up with a
non-public-building version to compare the costs of.

We have wide enough doors & ramps & entrances & the usual simple
adjustments - blade handles, grab bars in the bathrooms, (some) lowered
switches, and one thing we didn't expect - a small electric range in the
kitchen island that is wheelchair accessible (a chair can roll underneath)

The building is on a slope. The main floor is the top floor and is the only
'livable' public area now. The downstairs has unfinished floors & walls & is
partly storage, partly play (ping-pong table, foosball, exercise equipment,

We made the stairs between the floors wide enough to accomodate an eventual
chair lift.  Our plan is to rehab the building some day - add the chair lift
to make the basement accessible & finish off the downstairs. Our town's
guidelines made it clear that as original construction, we would have needed
an elevator to make both floors accessible, but as rehab a chair-lift was
acceptable. In our town, it appears that waiting at least three years puts
you into the rehab zone.  As a very rough estimate, we think a chair lift is
going to cost us 10-15K. An elevator would have been about twice as much.

The main expense we had related to being a public building came from the
fire department and the health department. We almost needed sprinklers,
which would have sunk the budget. Instead we have a zillion emergency-exit
lights & a cool-o alarm system that seems to summon the fire department
every time we use the fireplace or cook anything. The health department gave
us a variety of requirements, including a grease trap big enough to service
a MacDonalds (well, maybe not THAT big, but remind me to tell you the story
of what happens when you try to save money by buying a big used grease trap
& cleaning it out yourself...), and a hood over the range that is large
enough to suck up large domestic animals and small children - and pulls all
of the smoke from thefireplace into the kitchen, right by the alarms, which
makes the fire department show up...

Seriously though - we do have the occaisonal concert & large party & big
event, and I'm glad for both safety & liability reasons that we have all of
these ways to make sure everyone can get out of the building safely and
quickly if they need to. And the ADA accomodations just make our common
space accessible to more of the community, which seems like a Good Thing,
all around.

-Jim Snyder-Grant
jimsg [at]

April 12, 2001 5:01 PM
Subject: [C-L]_ADA Compliance - Americans with Disabilities Act

I'm interested in what experiences cohousing communities have had in the
designation of their common house as a "public building".

Was your common house designated as a "public building"?
What were the criteria on which this designation was based?
Do you have any idea how much cost was added to the common house to come
into compliance with ADA as a result of the "public building" designation?
Is your building one-level or two?
Do you have an elevator?

I'm especially interested in California.



Eileen McCourt
Oak Creek Commons
Cohousing in Paso Robles, CA
emccourt [at]
phone 650-691-1195
fax      650-691-0195

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