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Hot Topic Highlight – Inclusive Environments

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

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What is this week's blog about?

In this week’s blog, we look at five key topics relevant to the Inclusive Environments competency. This is a level 1 mandatory competency on all pathways, so it is essential reading for RICS APC candidates.

What is an inclusive environment?

In their Essential Principles guide, the Construction Industry Council (CIC) define an inclusive environment as ‘one that can be accessed and used safely, easily and with dignity by everyone’, ‘does not physically or socially segregate, discriminate or isolate’ and ‘is well designed, functional, efficient and sustainable, and delivers an enhanced user experience’.

What is inclusive design?

In the CABE guide, ‘The Principles of Inclusive Design’, inclusive design is defined as ‘making places everyone can use’. This removes barriers creating undue effort and separation, enabling all users to ‘participate equally, confidently and independently in everyday environments’.

Who is responsible for inclusive design?

Simply put, we all are. Surveyors are involved in all aspects of the property lifecycle, including site acquisition, design, construction, management and use. Providing inclusive and accessible environments should be an integral part of everything we do.

This should not just be to comply with minimum legislation and regulations, but to go one step further – satisfying our ethical, moral and professional duty to consider all user needs in our advice and decision making.

What are the key principles of inclusive design?

The CIC set out five key principles for inclusive design:

  • Placing people at the heart of the design process

  • Acknowledging diversity and difference

  • Offering choice where a single solution cannot accommodate all users

  • Providing flexibility in use

  • Creating an environment that is convenient and enjoyable for all to use

How can inclusive design be achieved?

In this blog, we are going to consider five key topics relating to inclusive environments and design:

  1. Equality Act 2010

  2. National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

  3. Approved Document M

  4. British Standard BS 8300

  5. Changing Places campaign

What does the Equality Act 2010 say about inclusive environments?

The Equality Act 2010 replaced the Disability Discrimination Acts of 1995 and 2005.

Section 20 states that disabled individuals should not face barriers to access premises. If a barrier is faced and the disabled individual is put at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a non-disabled individual, then the service provider is under an obligation to make reasonable adjustments to facilitate access.

This extends beyond the duty just to facilitate physical access, e.g. through ramps or lift access. It also relates to the way in which services are provided, which could include auxiliary aids such as hearing loops or visual aids.

Reasonable adjustments can be made through changing the way that things are done, changing physical features or providing additional aids or services.

You can read more about reasonable adjustments here.

What does the NPPF say about inclusive environments?

Section 8 of the latest NPPF relates to the provision of healthy, inclusive and safe places. These should ‘promote health and well-being, with a high standard of amenity for existing and future users’. This emphasises that high quality, inclusive design is a key principle of sustainable development, going beyond just aesthetic factors.

What is Approved Document M of the Building Regulations?

Approved Document M relates to the ‘ease of access to, and use of, buildings, including facilities for disabled visitors or occupants, and the ability to move through a building easily including to toilets and bathrooms’. It is split into Volume 1 Dwellings and Volume 2 Buildings other than Dwellings.

It provides specific guidance on the safe degrees of pitch for ramps and steps, as well as building dimensions and facilities to facilitate wheelchair access.

You can read the full guidance in Approved Document M here.

What is BS 8300?

BS 8300 was introduced in 2018, split into two parts; Part 1 BS 8300-1:2018 and Part 2 BS 8300-2:2018. BS 8300 goes beyond the minimum requirements set out in the Approved Document Part M.

Part 1 provides guidance relating to the accessible and inclusive design of new public spaces. Part 2 relates to internal design to meet all user requirements. It does not apply to individual residential dwellings.

The guidance relates to issues such as lighting external areas, ramp gradients and rises, accessible viewing for audience seating, sanitary facilities, WC layout and baby change facilities.

You can access the full guidance on the BSI website.

What is the Changing Places campaign?

The Changing Places campaign was launched in 2006 by the Changing Places Consortium. It aims to provide toilet facilities which are safe, comfortable and accessible for those who cannot use standard accessible toilets.

Changing Places toilets will have adequate space and facilities, e.g. height adjustable changing benches and hoists, to meet a variety of user requirements. Research suggests that over 250,000 people in the UK would benefit from the provision of Changing Places toilets, including users living with motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy.

How can I learn more?

We highly recommend checking out the free CPD module (1 hour) offered by the Design Council, which can be accessed here. The Design Council also offer an extensive Resource Hub online.

How can we help?

Stay tuned for our next blog post to help build a better you.

N.b. Nothing in this article constitutes legal, professional or financial advice.


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