What You Need to Know about ADA Compliance and Existing Buildings

When it comes to making a building accessible to people with disabilities, there are generally two ways of doing it: new construction or major renovations. In the case of existing buildings, the Department of Justice (DOJ) regulations commonly known as the ADA Accessibility Guidelines usually refer to alterations or interior spaces that have been updated with new features and systems. In this blog post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about ADA compliance and existing buildings, including what properties are covered by Title III of the ADA and when an update is considered a new construction project. Let’s get started!

What is Title III of the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals who have disabilities. The ADA covers businesses, nonprofit organizations, and state and local government entities. Title III of the ADA covers all new construction projects. It also includes alterations and additions to existing buildings that were built after 1991 and have a gross square footage of 3500 sq. ft or more (see below). The ADA also requires that all existing buildings be accessible to people with disabilities. The ADA Accessibility Guidelines include requirements for accessibility in all areas of a building, such as entrances, sidewalks, parking lots, and public transportation.

What are the ADA Requirements for New Construction?

This is where you need to be careful and make sure that you’re not doing too much and charging too much! There is a misconception that one must build everything from scratch and install a new building as if it were built in 1991 as if it were built in 1991. That would be incorrect. The code has changed over the years. What is important to remember is that the code of the year in which the building was constructed is the benchmark against which all future ADA requirements are measured. So, if your project was built in 1931 and it makes alterations to its restrooms, it must comply with the 1991 ADA requirements for accessible restrooms.

Existing Buildings that must become ADA Compliant

Though the ADA compliance primarily focuses on new construction, there are some existing buildings that must become ADA compliant as well. Existing buildings with public access space and a gross square footage of 3500 sq. ft or more must become ADA compliant. In addition, public rights-of-way must be ADA compliant. This includes walkways, sidewalks, and access to public transportation. If your building or property meets the above requirements, you must make the necessary alterations to become ADA compliant. However, if the alterations cost more than 20% of the building’s value, it must be brought up to current building code standards.

How to Become ADA Compliant in an Existing Building

First, it’s important to note that you don’t have to make your entire building ADA compliant. You can make alterations to certain parts of your building to make it ADA compliant. For example, you can renovate your entrance to meet the requirements of the ADA. You can also renovate your restrooms or common areas to make them ADA compliant. If a renovation project is expected to cost more than $1000, it’s important to check with your state’s architectural review board to determine if the project requires a permit. If the renovation project meets the ADA requirements, it should be listed on the board’s local permitting list.

Major Renovations in an Existing Building to Become ADA Compliant

If your building does not meet the requirements of the ADA, you have the option of making a major renovation to become ADA compliant. This can be a costly project, but it can be worth the expense if it means you’ll be able to attract more customers. When making a major renovation, you’ll need to meet the accessibility requirements that were in place in 1991. This includes making your entrances and pathways accessible, installing ramps or elevators, and installing accessible restrooms. If your business is located in a historic building, you may be able to use alternative methods to meet the ADA requirements. This includes installing a mechanical automatic door or installing a textured floor to prevent slipping.


Now that you know what is Title III of the ADA, what are the ADA Requirements for New Construction, Existing Buildings that must become ADA Compliant, and How to Become ADA Compliant in an Existing Building, it’s time to get to work! We hope this post has proven to be helpful and insightful. Now that you’re armed with this knowledge, you’re ready to make your business more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities.