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Can you Put a Porta Potty in a Building

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We are going to use today’s post as an open Mic Friday, where you get to help provide the content.  My question for you is quite simple, can I put a porta-potty inside of a building?

Wikipedia defines a portable toilet as

“A portable toilet is a modern, portable, self-contained outhouse manufactured of molded plastic in a variety of colors and is often used as a temporary toilet for construction sites and large gatherings and events. Portable toilets are referred to colloquially or sold under such brands as port-a-john, job johnny, port-o-let, port-a-loo, sani-privy, port-a-san, porta-potty, tidy john, John To Go, Biff, toi-toi, J-Jon, shit-shack, and porta-kybo”

These are very commonly utilized at outdoor events and the recent inauguration of the President, utilized the most porta johns in recent events.

  • Does the building, fire, plumbing, or mechanical codes allow for a contractor to put one of these inside the building during construction process?
  • If my restroom facilities are under remodeling, and my building is occupied, can the owner put a port-john in as the bathroom facilities (temporarily)?
  • Does the size of the building matter?

Lets us know your thoughts!

{ 14 comments… add one }

  • Jimmy February 27, 2009, 7:39 am

    A few thoughts:
    These would add to the fire load, and what is the flame spread and smoke development class?

    How would they be vented?

    How would trucks make access for dumping?

  • Andy King (Franklin, TN) February 27, 2009, 8:10 am

    Thankfully, I have never seen that!! I presume it would be prohibited by the mechanical or plumbing code even on a temporary basis due to ventilation concerns. If it were allowed, it would contribute significantly to the fire load of the building and could be removed. Who is really going to complain if you make them take it outside? Maybe I live too far south and have never used one when it is 12 degrees outside.

  • Brian Dove February 27, 2009, 8:41 am

    1. Does the building, fire, plumbing, or mechanical codes allow for a contractor to put one of these inside the building during construction process?

    Yes – Section 311.1 of the IPC 2003. Conformance to ANSI Z4.3 required.

    2. If my restroom facilities are under remodeling, and my building is occupied, can the owner put a port-john in as the bathroom facilities (temporarily)?

    No. ADA requirements cannot be accommodated with these units. Not aware of an accessable model. Also 3305 of the IBC requires that facilites be provided per the IPC during construction and remodeling. So if your building is occupied you still have to provide plumbing facilities.

    A Large Box Store solved this when they remodeled their rest rooms here by Leasing a portable unit and staging it outside the front entrance. It was ADA accessable. The only variance they got was the number of fixtures.

    3. Does the size of the building matter?

    Maybe we should ask “Bob”:+)

    Serioulsy if its a hi rise building you would have a problem…

  • Tim Rogers February 27, 2009, 11:16 am

    There are ADA accessible porta cans, we get them for the city’s July 4th events every year. I think there could be a code that would prohibit the use inside and that would be the health code–especially if food sales of any type (groceries, restaurants, etc.,) are involved.

    As far as fire load, based on what I’ve seen in the stock room of the local Wal Mart at Christmastime, I don’t see how it will create a significant additional load.

    Having been raised in Maryland & Illinois, and now living on the Gulf Coast of Texas, there would still be weather conditions in all of these locations which makes running to the outhouse something less than fun. If you gross out your customer base with the smell in an effort to stay open and make more money with an indoor location, how much of that long term money will you run off when your customer starts going elsewhere. Ah, but I digress…

  • Scott Colcord February 27, 2009, 11:43 am

    I see them inside unoccupied buildings, during construction.
    They are too tall for the fork lift to bring in, so they are “topless” models, and they remain topless during use.
    Not fun, as the user is exposed from mid-torso up while seated.
    I don’t know what issues require in-building use, probably the surrounding sidewalks are full of other construction obstacles.

  • Kurt Bortels February 27, 2009, 2:24 pm

    Actually I have seen them used in larger commercial projects, as long as they are properly vented to outside and a temporary permit is applied for (depending on jurisdiction) it is acceptable practice. Fire load typically is not a concern. especially when for the most part these are used “temporarily” and there are much greater fire concerns for us than a plastic container on a construction site. Over all common sense for use and location and if it is necessary to accomodate an ADA situation the contractor should provide an alternative location or make sure to have an ADA unit available for use.

  • Don Donnelley February 27, 2009, 3:05 pm

    Porta johns were found in an industrial building that had no running water or gas and they were running a document restoration service with about 50 employees. The johns were the least of our concerns when there was serious building and fire code violations everywhere we looked. Still curiousity made me inquire further later. I wound up making an industry contact

    D. Millicent Carroll
    Portable Sanitation Association International
    Director Industry/Regulatory Standards

    Millicent cited Ansi and State of Michigan rules and says they are not prohibited from buildings. I am still waiting to hear from our mechanical inspector and County Health.

  • Ray Cole February 27, 2009, 4:25 pm

    As you defined. A portable toilet is a modern portable, self contained outhouse . This portable unit was designed for exterior use.( Listed and labeled).

  • Richard Dunne February 28, 2009, 8:53 am

    The city had place a Porta Potty in the bay of one of our fire station for two weeks. This was during the scheduled replacement of the stations sewer line. During the timeframe that the Porta Potty was in the station the station was in operation and manned 24 hours a day. The engine company assigned to that station parked within 15 feet of the Porta Potty, and between 3 to 6 firefighters slept in the station at night.

  • Jason Gramer March 2, 2009, 11:42 am

    During the building of the Compuware Headquarters in Detroit we were supposed to use porta potties that had no roof on them. Venting was not addressed as the building was not closed in at the time. The only way to clean them was to put them into the buck hoist and take them to the truck.

  • Rick Bond May 14, 2009, 12:49 pm

    Run into the porta-john issues all of the time across the pond in the desert, and had to research much of the discussion content.

    Although porta-johns can be used in a building under construction, that building must be fully vented and not closed up. If the building is closed, then the porta-john must be vented to the outside. Although not found in the fire codes and dificult to find in any building codes, my environmental folks found the reference and the issue was within their jusrisdiction.

  • Porta Potty December 8, 2010, 4:54 pm

    Yes, a porta potty company offers high rise porta potties and I would assume these would be indoors? Can any one confirm this?


    • Michael O'Brian December 8, 2010, 8:18 pm

      Christina yes and no, did you have a link to one you have seen? There are some concern with venting of the porta potty but there is a possibility and can be depended on manufacture

  • Portable-Toilet-Rentals December 30, 2011, 3:00 pm

    Great conversation. PSAI did a great job on explaining this one I think. Good job Mr. Carroll!

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