Building Code of Australia 2015 – now free!

Following on from our post last year about the inequity of putting a price on standards, we happy to see that the National Construction Code (NCC) / Building Code of Australia 2015 is now available online and free for download.

By providing the NCC to be freely available online, this ensures that “all those involved in the Australian construction industry can access this important series of building and plumbing volumes, which will ensure the continued construction of better, safer and more sustainable buildings,” Australian Building Codes Board.

Whilst this is great news, the Australian Standards that are referenced in the BCA will still need to be purchased via Sai Global until their contract finishes.

Post by Queenie Tran

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Heritage and Accessibility

Heritage properties pose challenges in providing access to buildings whilst retaining it's heritage value

Heritage properties pose challenges in providing access to buildings whilst retaining it’s heritage value

Disabled access to heritage properties remains a challenge for property managers. Many assume that because a building is heritage, provisions for access are not required, or are a detraction from heritage status.

In a past role as a heritage consultant, I was lucky enough to see a number of great heritage buildings and appreciate their value and beauty. Having seen the grandeur of older buildings and modern architecture, there are ample opportunities to implement solutions for greater access. In declaring our heritage properties we have recognised their significance with an intention that ‘places will continue to be experienced and enjoyed by future generations.1

The DDA Access to Premises Standards requires equitable and dignified access for all people to all buildings, therefore it then stands to reason that access to these places be made available for all. While the Premises Standards include a concession for heritage buildings, this does not negate heritage buildings the need to meet the Deemed-to-Satisfy provisions of the Building Code of Australia (BCA) and the Access to Premises Standards. Therefore alternative approaches should be developed which achieve a better outcome for access.

A common challenge for access to heritage buildings is providing a connection from the pedestrian footpath to the building entry itself. In Sydney, many of grand heritage properties have access via a compacted earth or stone paved path. These prove to be access challenges for people with sensory and mobility impairments, but also those with prams. Compacted earth in particular can be even more difficult to manage in wet weather conditions, adding to complications. In deciding on a suitable access solution, it is important to question the heritage significance and the impact. The heritage significance of a property is unlikely to be reduced if the main entry was a hardstand and slip-resistant, continuous path of travel which will increase ease of access.

It is common for heritage buildings to have grand entry stairs at the main entry. Usually these stairs are significant to the property and are architecturally important in its design. Therefore to facilitate access while protecting the integrity of the design, an alternative entry point can be considered to ensure that access is achieved.

In heritage properties of a public nature, an operational management plan is critical in ensuring access for all is achieved. By conducting a ‘building access audit’ and understanding the operational nature of the building, access consultants can provide an overview of where an accessibility upgrade is possible and seek opportunities to improve access.

In understanding the importance of a building in its functions, heritage significance and access opportunities, an aesthetic and functional solution can be found for heritage sites that meets the Deemed-to-Satisfy provisions and the Access to Premises Standards.

Post by Queenie Tran


1. [http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/about]

We All Need to be NDIS Ready

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a monumental change in the approach within Australian society to disability inclusion and participation. The scheme is designed on concepts such as providing only ‘reasonable and necessary supports’ to people with a permanent and lifelong disability, strengthening informal/unpaid supports and connecting more people in to their local community.

In NSW the concept of greater connections within communities and via ‘mainstream services’ is the objective of ‘Ability Linkers’ being funded by the NSW government and rolled out by a number of community & social sector partners (248 positions, and a further 27 Aboriginal Identified positions).

While the mechanism has been created to assist people with a disability and their families to find, make and sustain those connections there has been less impetus on getting those mainstream services prepared for the change.

The Federal Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) encourages all people to implement the Act and share in the benefits that flow from having participation from all in our society. The Act entrenches the right of people with a disability to be able to obtain the goods and use services in a way no different to people without disability. This may include joining in on an activity such as a local sporting group or physical access to a premise for example appropriate ramps and signage.
Forward thinking organisations, businesses and community groups should act early to ensure that they are prepared. This will include developing their Disability Action Plans and conducting Audit Reviews on their facilities.

Wall To Wall Design + Consulting can work with you to develop these next steps for your organisation and help you to find cost effective ways to support the inclusion and participation of people with a disability in the services you offer.

Post by Dani Roderick

The Inequity of Putting a Price on Standards

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) Access to Premise Standards has been incorporated in to the Building Code of Australia (BCA). In doing so the documents required to ensure that work is in compliance with the code must be purchased on an annual subscription model of over $2000 for a single user licence. Alternatively, just the standard AS1428.1, which outlines the general requirements for new building work including dimensions and measurements, can be purchased for a cost of up to $350.

The current system monopolises access to information and therefore hampers the ability of smaller organisations, or individuals, to purchase and apply the standards on their own. In particular the high price of acquiring the information on an enforced code, required by law as minimum standard, creates a situation of inequity and dependence on external consultants.

This arrangement prevents community sector capacity building by enforcing a potentially prohibitive cost. In the interest of equity and improving the application of the standard, the code and standards should be available for free, if not for all, at least for registered not-for-profits.

Post by Dani Roderick

Glazed Doorways

Under the DDA Access to Premises Standards, the principle pedestrian entrance is of utmost importance to ensure accessibility to and within buildings. The requirements of an accessible entry is to have a clear accessible path of travel through a doorway with a minimum 850mm clear width.

We commonly see large open entries with fixed glazed panels and automatic opening doors:

Image shows a large glazed entry door with no contrast markings so you cannot tell where the location of the door is

Glazed entry door with no contrast markings

It’s great to see that large openings are provided, but what happens if you are vision impaired, or even distracted? How many times have you seen someone, or even yourself, walked into a fixed pane of glass? Under AS1428.1-2009, not only do glazing require a continuous band across the glazing, but the operable part of the door (or the element that moves to allow access) is required to have suitable luminance contrast.

Let’s discuss the contrast strip first. Architects commonly dislike the need for a contrast strip across glazing as it detracts from the purpose of having a clear glazed door (not to mention expensive!) But the strip is a crucial element to let users know that there is a physical barrier. A minimum 30% luminance contrast to the surrounding floor surface will alert people before they walk into it. The width and height of the contrast strip ensures that it is visible by most people at a safe distance. It is also important to note that whilst you may achieve a 30% contrast from the outside looking in, different floor surfaces and lighting conditions on the internal and external surfaces will mean you may need different coloured strips on each elevation of the glazing. There is nothing to stop architects to be creative in their interpretation of the glazing decals. There are a number of successful examples of corporate branding as well as clever interpretive designs.

The other difficulty with glazed entries is distinguishing where the entry is as opposed to the fixed sidelights.  The Australian Standard calls for a minimum 50mm wide frame to identify the operative door which can be seen to eradicate the use of glazed entries.

Framed door

Framed door

The provision of a contrast strip can be one method of identifying the doorway.

Before contrast framing

Before contrast framing

After contrast framing

After contrast framing

In other instances, performance based solutions such as the use of contrast flooring and tactile signals can be employed to meet access requirements. For example, the use of an entry mat is commonly associated with entries.

The picture shows a glazed frameless door with an entry mat on one side.  The entry mat can be a tactile indication as to where the entry doorway is located

Entry mats can be a tactile indication as to where the entry doorway is located

Post by Queenie Tran

The NDIS & Affordable Housing

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) commenced rollout in 4 states on 1 July 2013 and will further evolve this coming 1 July 2014 as it continues towards the expected full rollout in 2018-19.

It was estimated by Bruce Bonyhady AM, architect of the scheme, that of the 410,000 people to become participants in the NDIS, up to 193,000* are on low and very low incomes and may require housing assistance.

It has also been estimated that up to 122,000 of the 410,000 NDIS participants will have an unmet need for affordable accommodation.

This raises the issue of both increasing the stock of affordable accommodation and also ensuring an increase in accessibly designed options. With the 5th round of the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) scrapped in the 2014 Federal Budget, less affordable housing stock will be delivered in the coming years.

The disability sector alone does not have the capacity to generate the volume of affordable and accessible accommodation needed, especially when there are little to no incentives to develop affordable options.

*Bruce Bonyhady AM (Chairman, National Disability Insurance Agency) – ‘The National Disability Insurance Scheme: A catalyst for large scale, affordable and accessible housing for people with disablity.’


Post by Dani Roderick

Retail Arcades

Meandering through the streets of Brisbane, on a coffee hunt prior to the Robert Jones Memorial Oration at the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland, I happened across this arcade:

ThresholdRamp

Uneven

Located in Brisbane CBD, the steep rise of the arcade which provides a pedestrian path of travel between two main streets gave some interesting interpretations of the access to and within provisions of tenancies.

As a public access arcade, the gradient of the continuous path of travel is a worrying gradient clearly evidenced in the photographs.  To mediate between the sloped walkway, an interesting attempt at providing ramped entries into the tenancies themselves.  Not only is this a poor example of access, but due to the lack of luminance contrast on the edges of the “ramps”, these stepped entries become not only a hazard to those with a vision impairment, but a trip hazard to anyone within the arcade.

The level platform may provide a suitable edge for shorelining by a person using a cane, however, as you progress up towards Elizabeth Street, the edge disappears as it converges up the main pedestrian walkway.

Whilst these are general access requirements, consideration of these factors also contributes to good design of buildings and makes for more comfortable and welcoming spaces.  It is no wonder that these awkward and clumsily designed areas have so many empty retail tenancies.

Post by Queenie Tran

Intent of the Disability Access to Premises Standards

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 provides legislated protection of the rights of individuals with a disability, as well as friends, family, caregivers, etc. In eliminating discrimination on the basis of disability, it is important for access to buildings or premises is achieved and thus, access to services in the community.

The DDA Access to Premises Standards provides minimum access requirements as per the Australian Standards. When reviewing accessibility compliance, it is critical that you observe the intent of the access codes. Whilst the access standards provide a general guide of minimum requirements for compliance, best practice principles needs to be considered to mitigate the risk of a DDA complaint.

Interpretation of the Australian Standards can vary amongst building professionals. As such, each project needs to be considered on it’s own merit, whether it be based on the use of the building, management or other contextual details.

Stay tuned to learn more about access requirements in the coming weeks as we discuss the implications of the Australian Standards.

Post by Queenie Tran

Disability Discrimination Act and the Access to Premises Standards

The Federal Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992 moved towards providing protection for everyone in Australia against discrimination based on disability, whether it be physical and/or mental disabilities.

The DDA acts as the guiding principle that the Access to Premises Standards was developed under a proposal by the Australian Government.  The document was to form the basis of a disability standard for access to public buildings.

The Access to Premises Standards was then, in part, incorporated in the the National Construction Code – Building Code of Australia.  As such, the requirements for suitable access to public buildings, for persons with a disability, became minimum practice requirements in May of 2011.

Through the recognition of the needs, and in fact, rights of peoples with disabilities, these changes provide an equitable level of access to participate and contribute to our communities.  Furthermore, the Access to Premises Standards provides consistency for everyone to navigate our surrounding environment, but also a tool in which to guide designers and planners to provide better access for everyone.

Post by Queenie Tran

Downsize to a Universally Designed House

An article in yesterday’s paper, Unable to downsize as they wish, baby boomers are staying in their old homes longer, revealed the difficulties experienced by those aged 50+ in finding suitable housing. Suitable housing was seen to mean “smaller dwellings with between two and three rooms in locations that suited the retires, that were one-storey, without stairs, and were “universally designed” with features such as no front step and wider corridors so that they could house older people without being too obviously for older people.”

Potentially, a large portion of our housing is being held by those wanting to downsize, however finding limited accessible options. A surprising 73% of those aged 65+ live in dwellings with 3 or more bedrooms (ABS, 2011 Census) – underutilising their house and choking supply for families. We’ve all seen, heard, or even experienced the difficulties in finding adequately sized homes to start families, with first-home owners left by the way-side unable to afford housing within major cities.

Bruce Judd, from the University of New South Wales’ City Future Research Centre, found that, of the 18% of Australians aged 50+ who moved between 2006-2011, half of those downsized, or moved to a house with fewer bedrooms. His survey found that many respondents listed lifestyle preferences as a main reason to change with 26.6% citing inability to maintain their large homes as a reason for moving.

Universal housing caters to people in all stages of life. Not only that, but it is a house where one can safely start a family, grow and have the flexibility for the house to adapt to their needs. Universal design features offer designed environments, lower long term costs and greater usability.

Post by Queenie Tran