Designing any building, whether commercial or residential, usually involves being bombarded with complicated and lengthy building regulations. This article aims to help you understand the basics of the regulations surrounding accessible dwellings.
Inclusive design is essential for any building or space. An accessibly designed environment, whether on a building or urban scale, will result in added value from a user-friendly experience. But, how do we know what makes a space inclusive and accessible – the answer is government set building regulations and legislations which set out minimum standards.
What are the DDA and Equality Acts?
Pre-2010, disabled access into buildings was covered by the ‘Disability Discrimination Act 1995’ (DDA). The function of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was to make it unlawful to discriminate against individuals due to their disabilities with specific focus on employment, education, transport and the provision of goods and services. The DDA required "reasonable adjustments" to be made when providing access to goods, facilities, services and premises.
However, in October of 2010, a new Equality Act came into force bringing together several separate pieces of legislation into one Act and is still enforced today. The Equality Act 2010 provides the UK with a discrimination law which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair equal society and opportunity for equality. The Act provides protection in the workplace, when buying or renting property, using public services or facilities, as a consumer and in education.
The equality Act brings together several legislations including:
The Race Discrimination Act
The Sex Discrimination Act
The Disability Discrimination Act
The Employment Equality Acts (Age, Sexual Orientation and Religion/Belief)
The Equal Pay Act.
From time to time nowadays, you still hear people referring to disability projects as DDA compliant or DDA schemes. DDA is an outdated term which is no longer relevant in light of the newer policy Act.
Part M of the Building Regulations
So, what does this mean for the design world in architecture?
There is no specific document that outlines how to comply with the Equality Act. Therefore, it is expected that complying with the requirements set out in ‘Part M: Access to and use of buildings’ (of the Building Regulations) would be enough to meet the requirements of the Equality Act. There are two volumes to Part M – Vol.1 Dwellings and Vol.2 Building other than dwellings.
‘Vol.1 Dwellings’ outlines requirements for dwellings and dwelling undergoing material alterations – extensions are not covered. It includes guidance in order to comply with Schedule 1 of the Building Regulations: M4(1) Visitable Dwellings, M4(2) Accessible and adaptable dwellings and M4(3) Wheelchair user dwellings.
‘Vol.2 Building other than dwellings’ provides guidance for complying with Schedule 1 of the Building Regulations: M1, M2 and M3.
However, simply complying with the requirements of Part M does not necessarily mean compliance with the broader obligations and duties set out in the Equality Act – Part M consists of a series of ‘minimum’ requirements. Extra care and thought needs to be instilled in a scheme by the architect/designer to exceed these minimum requirements to ensure a broad range of people are able to access and use facilities within buildings.
Qualified access consultants can be brought into a project team from early design stages during the to offer guidance to ensure compliance with the Building Regulations and offering advice on exceeding these minimum standards. This is then reinforced formal through a Building Regulations application to Building Control. The National Register of Access Consultants (NRAC) is presently working with the RIBA to deliver an inclusion focused input to the RIBA Plan of Work document ensuring architects and designer alike are aware of the inclusion requirements inside and outside of a building.
Arkhi Care, can we help?
When meeting current regulations for the access and use of buildings, simply complying with the Building Regulations may not always be enough. Careful attention needs to be given to any specific needs of potential building users and reasonable adjustments need to be made in relation to accessibility.
At Arkhi Care, we specialise in the design and development of accessible residential and commercial schemes and go the extra step to ensure an accessible and inclusive use of a building for all parts of our society. Based in Cheshire, we have completed schemes across the North West ranging from Macclesfield, Liverpool and Southport. To find out more, fill in our contact form with your details and our Office Manager will be in touch to discuss your scheme further.