Behind the rancorous debate over gender inclusivity in restrooms, an upheaval is quietly happening. Emerging from both LGBTQ advocacy work and sheer opportunity, architects and proprietors are pursuing changes to bathroom signage and design in workaday spaces—bars, restaurants, and coffee shops— throughout our cities. This is private enterprise keeping pace with a gravitational shift in societal norms.

But the quest gets tripped up when businesses of a certain size are beholden to conventional building and plumbing codes, which require a specific fixture count and gender-assignment for single-user restrooms (usually at least one male- and one female-designated facility), and when it comes to multi-user restrooms or facilities in public buildings. This is when design teams looking to do something different must seek a variance, and when proactive jurisdictions do their best to legislate maneuvers around the code.

Thankfully, the model codes are moving in the right direction. The 2018 International Plumbing Code (IPC) updates signage requirements for single-user restrooms.