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Inclusive Environments: Learn more about the new British Standard

Posted: 9th February 2018

Julie Fleck OBE, MRTPI

British Standard Committee B/559 Member

A new British Standard has been published to help built environment professionals create an inclusive environment for everyone – this is not just a moral or social issue but a statutory duty

We learnt last summer of the stark reality that, despite years of antidiscrimination legislation, disabled people are still finding their lives needlessly restricted by features of the built environment. The Women and Equalities Committee Inquiry into Disability and the Built Environment reminded us all that inclusive design is not just a nice to do. All built environment professionals, through the critical role we play in planning, building and managing our towns and cities, have a statutory duty to ensure that disabled and older people have the same opportunities as non disabled people to live full and independent lives. We as must all respond by ensuring that we no longer allow barriers to inclusion to be designed built or maintained.

Do you have the skills and knowledge to plan to include?

Do you have the technical knowhow to judge whether a development proposal will provide an inclusive environment or not? Do you know whether you overlook the critical detail that will make a building or place easy and comfortable to use?

We are getting better at assessing wheelchair accessibility, but do we really understand how to design buildings and spaces that are accessible and usable by blind and partially sighted people, or by people whose walking ability is limited or whose perception of space requires legible routes and predictable layouts. With the loss in many local authorities of the expert access officer on hand to ask, we all need to recognise what we don’t know and brush up on our technical skills.

A new British Standard

If you need to refresh your skills, the new British Standard, a revised and updated version of BS 8300:2010, provides an opportunity for you to gain a greater understanding of inclusive design and help you ensure that your development adequately addresses accessibility.

Published in January, the Code of Practice BS 8300:2018 Design of an accessible and inclusive built environment is divided into two parts. Part 1: External Environment explains how the external built environment, including streets, parks, landscaped areas, the approach to a building and the spaces between and around buildings, can be designed, built and managed to achieve an inclusive environment. It complements and is intended to be read in conjunction with Part 2: Buildings.

Advice given in Part 1 incorporates material relating to the external environment that was in the original BS 8300:2010 but it has been expanded to include wider aspects not previously included, such as lighting, assistance dog toilets, water features and public art. Advice is also given for specific locations such as access to beaches, play areas, parks and gardens, and nature trails.

Part 2 has updated and expanded the advice on nearly all aspects of the accessibility of buildings. Although the standard recognises that more research is needed before comprehensive advice can be given to address ‘Designs for the Mind’, the new code does include advice on, for example, quiet spaces. This includes when and what to provide in a dedicated room or space where people can find peace, calm and tranquillity in order to manage sensory / neurological processing needs or spend time in prayer or contemplation.

Integrating inclusive design principles into the development process

For the first time, the British Standard has included advice on how to integrate inclusive design principles into the development process. Recognising the importance of addressing access and inclusion from the outset of any project it recommends, in Section 4, the development of an Inclusive Design Strategy as part of any strategic vision, with the principles of inclusive design embedded into the initial concept brief. Budget estimates, procurement processes and development agreements should make explicit reference to meeting best practice, helping to establish the principles of an inclusive development prior to the drafting of master plans and outline designs.

This should make it easier for designers to demonstrate how access and inclusion has been addressed in the Design and Access Statement submitted at planning application stage. If the commitment to an inclusive development process has been championed by the developer from the outset, monitoring compliance with best practice standards throughout the construction phases should also be easier and more transparent.

The masterplan and outline planning stages provide the opportunity to address the accessibility of the site and building layout. Section 5 sets out guidance on site planning, the position of buildings and their features, navigation, orientation and way finding, the legibility of space, and the principles of two senses (audible / tactile and visual).

Early consideration of the impact topography and the location of buildings across the site, the position of entrances and other features and how they are arranged can help to maximise their accessibility.

If you want to hear more about the new BS 8300:2018 register here for the CIC Inclusive Environment Briefing February 22nd at the RICS Headquarters in London.

Use the advice and guidance in BS 8300: 2018 and help make inclusion the norm not the exception

Contributor: Julie Fleck OBE, MRTPI is the RTPI representative on British Standard Committee B/559 the committee responsible for the development of BS 8300.