The 100,000 Dollar (Office Toilet)? Seriously?
August 12, 2014 6:19 PM   Subscribe

I work for a small(ish) but growing nonprofit organization. Our HQ is currently a rented office/laboratory suite in a single-story building with multiple other tenants in adjacent suites. Growth is good, but we're nearing the OSHA limit for "number of employees per one restroom", and we're thoroughly past the "human comfort" limit as such things go already. We can't immediately move, so we're looking at installing a second lavatory. Is there really NO way (assuming "sketchy, un-licensed contractor" is off the table, which it most assuredly is) to do this for under $100,000 in California?

Right now my workplace literally has ONE toilet. Not one room full of stalls, and not one men's room and one ladies' room, but one single unisex room, containing a toilet and sink, for everyone to share.

Needless to say, this is NOT a comfortable situation for anyone. It is frankly turning into a "quality of life" issue. People can't really be making efficient use of their time at work if they're having to queue up at the door, and it is frankly kind of humiliating to have to stand there contemplating fluid-restriction and hoping your co-workers don't think you're slacking off when you just have to pee and don't want to miss your "window"!

So, there's no question that we NEED a second toilet-chamber. The problem is that in order to install a second toilet-chamber we'd apparently be paying roughly $100k just for the bare minimum of one more single toilet and sink.

This is based on having gone to multiple contractors in the area and obtained quotes for the "bare minimum" facility we would need.

Most of the cost seems to be coming from such things as the need to drill into concrete (to access sewer lines), produce drawings (the only existing drawings of this building are from 1980 and they're on paper only; there are no CAD files of the site plan or anything else), and secure needed permits from the city.

One complicating factor: we don't plan on staying in this space indefinitely. We would ideally like to be out of here and in a larger, better-equipped space within one or two (at most) years. This makes my employers quite justified in balking at the idea of making a $100k investment (assuming we could even secure those funds) in something we can't take with us when we move. for my actual question, can anyone give me a reality check on what we should reasonably expect to pay to get a restroom installed in an existing office building in California? Would we be better off looking at Porta-Potty rental, or would that end up costing even more?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total)
Perhaps you could rotate working from home? Have 1/5 of the staff offsite on any given weekday according to a preset schedule. I have seen other organizations do this because it costs nothing, saves on overhead, and the staff generally loves it.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:23 PM on August 12, 2014 [11 favorites]

I used to estimate plumbing. In Missouri, for union labor in an office space that had access to the plumbing below, a doctor's office with sinks in every room would be 40k. Once you opened the slab, tack on 50% for sawing etc. If you had to do just about anything special because the sanitary was inaccessible within the suite, pretty much another 20k. Signed drawings for the plumbing alone tended to run a couple grand. Most of the labor was in running the sewer and vent; water lines are easy, and fixtures are cheap, relatively.

So yeah, 100k doesn't sound bad, considering that's *just* the plumbing. No carpenters, no drywallers, no taping, no mudding, paint, electrician, move some ductwork...
posted by notsnot at 6:29 PM on August 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Are you renting? If you are, I'd move the moving timeline up from 1-2 years from now to now. If you're selling, start the process now as well. Investing that much into a space that you won't be in for long is silly. I doubt that a portapotty will be a welcome alternative. If you can't move ASAP, the rotation of work from home seems like a good alternative.
posted by quince at 6:34 PM on August 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Maybe you can make a deal with another tenant for access to their facilities. I would be cheaper to pay them a $1,000 per month to use their toilet than to build one yourself.
posted by 724A at 6:40 PM on August 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

rented office/laboratory suite
Why would you spend money to upgrade a place you are renting? Your landlord should be the one to add the restroom, not you. If the workspace holds that many employees, they won't be able to rent it to any other organization without an additional restroom, so go to them and ask. You could offer to pay bit more rent once it is installed.
posted by soelo at 6:50 PM on August 12, 2014 [13 favorites]

It's just what it costs. Negotiate with your landlord to split - can probably get them to go in on it just for wrangling and get them to pay for a lot more of the cost if you lease extend (would change your plans, though.) If you rent your space piecemeal you can negotiate with fractions of your total lease by evening them up. We're in a cramped building too but have gotten a lot done affordably. And yes, do look into an expense sharing arrangement with neighbors even if it means cutting a door and paying for some fob/key card changes.
posted by michaelh at 7:47 PM on August 12, 2014

Sometimes tenants pay for this stuff, sometimes the landlord does. There are usually lease conditions (landlord will install carpet, tenant will be allowed to build out weightroom etc... ) Like in residential the advice is to always read your lease first (our tenants are often surprised they're responsible for things like HVAC, roof repair and plumbing! But it's there in the lease.)

If you're in lease negotiations, your landlord might be willing to do some of this work too keep you in the space. But if you'r not going to renew, there's no real reason for them to pay for this to be done while you're in there. (although they might see the benefit of having more toilets to entice a future tenant.)

Whomever signed the lease for your space should talk to the landlord to see if there's anything to be done (early lease termination? another space you could swap with?)
posted by vespabelle at 7:51 PM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Would we be better off looking at Porta-Potty rental, or would that end up costing even more?"

I doubt getting a chemical toilet quote would cost anything. So you should obviously get a quote, but IDK how they square with indoor office design, having only seen them in construction sites and festivals.
posted by pwnguin at 9:24 PM on August 12, 2014

On this site, you can buy a 3-stall portable restroom trailer for <$18,000. That is certainly less than $100k, and after you move into your new facilities, you can probably sell it and get a large part of your money back.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:42 PM on August 12, 2014

The condition that you describe does not comply with the California Plumbing Code requirements (Table 422.1) - LINK - for minimum number of plumbing fixtures. (If you look at the code table, for office or laboratory use the number of occupants is calculated as 1 person per 100 square feet, split evenly between male and female.) Similar requirements were in the code even in 1980. It sounds like your landlord has divided up the building and not provided you with access to your share of the restrooms.

I agree with others that this is something you should discuss with your landlord.
posted by The Architect at 9:53 PM on August 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

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