Before the proliferation of water bottles, drinking fountains were relied upon to quench one’s thirst. But water fountains aren’t thoughtlessly installed into buildings. The New York City Plumbing Code has clear-cut laws on access to water and water fountains.
Drinking fountains are required almost everywhere. According to the New York City Plumbing Code table 403.1, water fountains are required in all businesses, educational facilities, factories, hospitals, prisons, daycare centers, shopping centers, hotels, and storage areas. Places of assembly are required to have them. This includes all theaters, auditoriums, gymnasiums, lecture halls, museums, libraries, airport terminals, churches, and sports arenas.
Table 403.1 of the Plumbing Code also states the quantity of water fountains required in an occupancy. A hospital, for instance, is required to have one water fountain per 100 people. Each building’s certificate of occupancy states the maximum persons accommodated per floor. If the a hospital has a maximum persons accommodated as 101, it would need two water fountains.
Water distribution quality for fountains must comply with NSF/ANSI Standard 61. The goals of Standard 61 are to deliver safe clean drinking water. From source to tap, Standard 61 ensures any contaminants to the water supply are below levels considered safe.
There are instances when an occupancy can get an exemption from having a water fountain. According to NYC’s Local Law No. 55 Section PC 410, restaurants and bars are exempt from providing a water fountain so long as they offer non-bottled water. In occupancies that are not restaurants, a bottled water dispenser can be substituted for no more than 50 percent of the required drinking fountains. Also, a faucet designed to fill a container at least 10 inches in height may serve as a substitute for up to 50 percent of required fountains. These two 50 percent exemptions are mutually exclusive. The 50 percent exemptions only apply when two or more faucets are required. If an occupancy has a capacity under 15 people they are completely exempt from having a fountain.
Though buying bottles water has become commonplace, New York City Plumbing Code has regulations to provide safe, clean, and free drinking water to its denizens. It’s important for architects and design professionals to understand the requirements for drinking fountains going into a project.
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