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I work in a university building designed in the 1930s, located in western New York State (not in NYC). To enter classrooms, offices or labs one passes through a single door. However, the restrooms ALL have two layers of door with a closet-sized compartment in between. This poses issues for people with mobility impairments. All the inner doors have transoms, with a ventilation grating above each transom. Both the men's and women's restrooms have these two-layer doors.

The two door system is awkward and wastes space. Surely there are better ways to prevent hallway users from peeping in. And the bathrooms are not noisy; I've been in classrooms that share a wall with a restroom and have never heard any water-related noise. Finally, the grating between the restroom and the compartment eliminates the argument that the reason is odor control. I suspect the reason relates to the building codes in force when the building was designed - but why would a building code require two layers of door on a restroom?

Thanks for any insights!

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  • $\begingroup$ They don't just occur in NY buildings of the 1930s, they occur around the world. Even in buildings constructed during the 1990s. Preventing either purposeful or accidental exposure of occupants is a good reason for having a two door system. $\endgroup$ – Fred Sep 14 '18 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ I see this in many office buildings in CA, as well, and always thought as @Fred did, that it is to enhance privacy for the occupants of those restrooms. $\endgroup$ – BillDOe Sep 14 '18 at 19:08
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In order to limit noise from the appliances that are being used (i.e. shower) as well as to stop any steam from showers escaping and causing fire alarms to be set off. Furthermore, the use of double-layered doors limits any odour produced in the bathroom from escaping into other rooms.

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As mentioned in my comment, a two door arrangement for access to restrooms occurs around the world and in more recently constructed buildings. Preventing either purposeful or accidental exposure of occupants is a good reason for having a two door system. Do not underestimate some people's desire for such privacy. I have known men from some non western cultures who avoid using urinals because of the lack of privacy and such a lack of privacy conflicts with their religious beliefs.

I agree that such a two door system poses issues for people with mobility issues but alternatives are possible.

Where I live a mall was constructed in the 1990s that incorporated buildings that were decades old. On the ground floor, the restrooms have a two doors system such as the one you describe. However for one of the restrooms on the upper level an alternate system was used.

Consider a long narrow rectangular box. The system your mention has the doors at each end of the box. The corridor between the doors can be long or short. Now as an alternative, that occurs in the mall in my area, consider a doorway in one of the long sides of the box at the end of the box. There is another doorway on the opposite long side of the the box, but at the other end. If anyone stands at one door way and looks in they cannot see through the other doorway, they have to go to the other end of the corridor and enter the restroom on the opposite wall. To enter the restroom everyone has to make two right angle turns.

Notice I mention doorway and not door, because there are no doors, just open doorways. This has the benefit of providing adequate ventilation and easier access with mobility issues. Another advantage of such a system is the doorways can be made wider than usual doors, making it even easier for people with mobility issues to negotiate the entrance to the restroom.

Next to these restrooms is a dedicated restroom for people with mobility issues, particularly those who use wheelchairs. They have a separate room with an opaque sliding glass door that is activated by an electronic button, inside and outside. Inside there is another electronic button to lock the door from the inside. The size of the room is about 3 metres by 3 metres (10 ft by 10 ft).

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Simply to keep a sound and smell barrier and commonly doubles as a breezeway for the gender doors. There are plenty of bathrooms with in building code with one locking door to the common area.

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