Meeting Certificate of Occupancy Requirements: What Role Does ADA Signage Play?

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As an architect, you’re undoubtedly familiar with certificate of occupancy requirements already. Meeting the conditions set by the local building authority is necessary in cases of new construction, property conversion, change in ownership, and major remodeling. Although the requirements can vary by location, the certificate of occupancy serves three primary purposes everywhere:

  1. To identify what a structure will be used for
  2. To certify that a building is suitable for occupancy 
  3. To serve as proof that a facility complies with building codes

That last purpose is especially important in terms of the work you do for your clients.

When you take on a new project, you must consider the safety and functionality of the building. The decisions you make determine whether the structure will pass inspection and whether your client will be issued their certificate. So, you need to make sure you’ve covered all your bases. That means being aware of the required building signage for a certificate of occupancy—specifically, ADA-compliant signs.

Why Is Meeting Certificate of Occupancy Requirements Crucial?

The simple fact is that meeting certificate of occupancy requirements is essential to complete a project fully so that your client can use the building. If the building doesn’t pass inspection, the conditions won’t be met, which means the certificate won’t be issued. Without that certificate, the building can’t be occupied.  

But that’s just the primary reason this is such a crucial step. Additional consequences of not meeting these requirements are as follows:

These are all potential repercussions to be aware of when working on a project. As you can see, failing to meet certificate of occupancy requirements can have serious negative effects—and not just for your client. It can also negatively affect your firm, as your client may hold you responsible. If they share their dissatisfaction with others, it could paint you in a negative light and jeopardize future contracts.

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How Does ADA Signage Fit into Certificate of Occupancy Requirements?

Although ADA signage is often overlooked in the grand scheme of things, it’s essential for meeting certificate of occupancy requirements. That’s because there are types of required building signage for a certificate of occupancy—namely ADA-compliant identification signs and more. During building inspections, those in charge of auditing check to make sure both federal and local (if applicable) ADA rules have been followed.  

As mentioned earlier, certificate of occupancy requirements can vary from one city to the next. However, since the ADA is a federal law, the need for compliant features such as signage applies to public buildings throughout the country. Ultimately, ADA sign installation is necessary before a certificate of occupancy can be issued.

Here’s why…

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities—such as visual impairments—against discrimination. A big part of that is ensuring those individuals have access to public places and private places open to the public. So, to comply with the ADA, businesses must make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities. And that includes having suitable displays in place.  

What Is the Required Building Signage for a Certificate of Occupancy?

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In general, the required building signage for a certificate of occupancy includes ADA-compliant signs installed throughout the facility. A building that’s open to the public must have suitable signage to identify permanent spaces, provide information, and give directions. These signs are routinely checked for during building inspections. 

More specifically, certain types of signage are needed to achieve ADA compliance and meet certificate of occupancy requirements. These displays must be designed according to ADA sign specifications. Some examples are as follows:

Note there are several rules about what makes a sign ADA compliant, and not every sign has to meet ADA guidelines. For example, temporary signs and building directories don’t require any special characteristics. 

Why You Should Include ADA Sign Installation in Your Projects

As an architect, you likely view accessible design as a standard practice. In fact, you probably refer to the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design to ensure every building you work on has the necessary features. But it’s important that you give special consideration to signage, as it tends to go overlooked. 

By getting and installing the ADA signs each client needs, you can go the extra mile for every project. In addition to making sure certificate of occupancy requirements are met, you can complete a task that many business owners find overwhelming. All your bases will be covered, and your clients will be appreciative. 


When it comes to meeting certificate of occupancy requirements, there’s a lot to consider. However, it’s crucial to ensure a client’s building is up to code and nothing has been missed. That’s why you need to be aware of the required building signage for a certificate of occupancy and help your clients get it. If you need a selection of affordable, high-quality, customizable ADA-compliant signs for a project, check out the sign families from Erie Custom Signs today!  

Filed Under: ADA Signage

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