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Universal Design

Universal Design is defined in the Disability Act 2005 as “the design and composition of an environment so that it may be accessed, understood and used to the greatest practicable extent, in the most independent and natural manner possible, in the widest possible range of situations and without the need for adaptation, modification, assistive devices or specialised solutions, by persons of any age or size or having any particular physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual ability or disability.”

Universal Design is about creating homes and environments that are easy for people to use and reflect the fact that all people experience changes in their abilities as they progress through the different stages of life. It is important for designers to take all potential users of the home into account throughout the design process in order to avoid creating a home that excludes certain groups from participating in normal everyday activities. Experience has shown that meeting the needs of people with disabilities or older people frequently generates design solutions which benefit a wider range of user groups, including people with young children in buggies, people with temporary injuries or carrying heavy luggage or furniture.

The key principles of Universal Design are:

Part M (Access and Use) of the Building Regulations aims to foster an inclusive approach to the design and construction of the built environment and underpins the philosophy of Universal Design. Part M (Access and Use) requires that adequate provision is made for people to access and use a building, its facilities and its environs. The associated Technical Guidance Document M (TGD M) sets out guidance on the minimum level of provision to meet requirements of Part M in practice. However, those involved in the design and construction of buildings should also have regard to the design philosophy of Universal Design and consider making additional provisions where practicable and appropriate. For this purpose, a list of useful references, advocating greater accessibility, is given at the end of TGD M.

Further advice and guidance can be found at the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design.

By enjoying lift access and with all accommodation on a single floor, apartments are particularly suitable to accommodate persons with reduced mobility, even to the extent of wheelchair dependence, and can particularly meet the first principle of Universal Design, by providing equitable level access to all rooms, in a cost efficient manner. This is particularly the case in barrier free open plan apartments. It is normally not possible to extend multi storey apartments, in particular to provide bathrooms fully useable by persons with special mobility requirements. However, Design Standards for New Apartments (2018) sets out the requirement that in developments with more than 9 apartments, the majority of the units need to be provided with 10% additional floor area. Accordingly, the opportunity can be taken within the mandatory increased target floor areas, for apartments to provide internal layouts suitable for households who may develop age related decreasing mobility, entirely consistent with Universal Design principles , but with little additional cost. Such larger apartments can provide good accommodation for the widest variety of tenants.

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