To Submit or Not to Submit?

This is one of the most common questions.  The Texas Architectural Barriers Law, Sec. 469.10, requires that construction documents must be submitted to TDLR or a RAS for review if it is a subject building/facility and the construction cost is greater than $50,000.00.

Hitting the $50k mark is not hard to do.  And because of the wording in the AB Administrative Rules, “Commercial facilities are subject to the Act if they are intended for non-residential use and if their operations will affect commerce,” virtually all non-residential facilities are subject to the Act.

Here are two common scenarios:

Scenario A – Exterior face lift. An existing shopping center will receive a new canopy and a new EIFS facade.  Cost $250,000.00

Scenario B – Minor office renovation. The owner wants to replace stained ceiling tiles and old light fixtures.  All walls will receive new paint/VWC and the carpet will be replaced throughout.  No walls will be altered or added.  Cost $122,000.00 (that’s alot of paint and carpet!)

In order to determine the requirement for submittal, we must look at the Law:

Sec. 469.101. Submission for Review and Approval Required.

All plans and specifications for the construction of or for the substantial renovation or modification of a building or facility must be submitted to the department for review and approval if:

(1) the building or facility is subject to this chapter; and

(2) the estimated construction cost is at least $50,000.

Instead of focusing on items (1) and (2), read the first part, “…for the construction of or for the substantial renovation or modification of…”.  The AB Law and Texas Accessibility Standards do not directly define substantial renovation, but we do have a definition for “alteration” that includes “renovation”.

3.5.9 Alteration.

An alteration is a change to a building or facility made by, on behalf of, or for the use of a public entity, a lease to or occupancy by a state agency, a public accommodation or commercial facility, that affects or could affect the usability of the building or facility or part thereof. Alterations include, but are not limited to, remodeling, renovation, rehabilitation, reconstruction, historic restoration, changes or rearrangement of the structural parts or elements, and changes or rearrangement in the plan configuration of walls and full-height partitions. Normal maintenance, reroofing, painting or wallpapering, or changes to mechanical and electrical systems are not alterations unless they affect the usability of the building or facility.

The main concept of this definition is “usability”. As applied to our two scenarios, Scenario A would not be subject to review and Scenario B would be subject to review.  Why?

In Scenario A, there are no alterations that would affect the usability of the building or facility.  If there were canopy supports that were being relocated or added, then this would be considered an alteration.

In Scenario B (and I know you are already arguing with me on this one), because the carpet is being replaced, and because carpet can affect the usability of the facility, this would be considered a renovation subject to review.

The next question is, “Can I subtract the cost of paint and ceiling work from Scenario B to have a construction cost less than $50k?”.  What do you think?  I will save that answer for another day.


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