A new consultation strategy document on Approved Document Part M will have major implications for design and detailing
With the issue of this consultation document, the government has given clear notice that the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) is the vehicle to bring about fundamental change in the way that the built environment is constructed and managed.
The provisions of Part III of the DDA relating to premises came into force last month, and the amendment of Part M of the Building Regulations is now imperative if legal anomalies between construction regulation and civil law are to be avoided. In seeking to achieve this rationalisation, the radical nature of the changes to Part M, as set out in the document, is quite remarkable.
These proposed changes involve:
Omitting specific reference to and a definition of disabled people from the Requirements, while broadening references in the Approved Document to include parents with children elderly people and people with disabilities' (This last designation is clearly defined within the DDA).
The application of the Requirements to buildings undergoing alterations or change of use.
A major reordering and overhaul of the design guidance set out in the proposed new Approved Document M to reflect the research-based recommendations of British Standard BS8300:2001 'Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people - Code of Practice'.
Guidance on the design of stairs, also based upon BS8300, which will take precedence over that in Part K until a revised Approved Document K is issued.
Building Regulations updated to include as a material change of use the conversion of a building to use as a shop, and appropriate amendments to the Requirements of Part M to 'M1 (accessibility), M2(3) (sanitary accommodation) and M3 (audience or spectator seating)'.
The revision of Section 1 and 2 of Approved Document M to cover 'Access to buildings other than dwellings'.
The revision of Section 3, 4 and 5 to cover 'Horizontal and vertical circulation', 'Facilities' and 'Sanitary accommodation' respectively, in 'buildings other than dwellings'.
The Regulatory Impact Assessment of the Consultation Document unambiguously sets out the principles on which the intended revision of Part M is based. It states: 'The overall objective of the proposed amendments is to ensure that new buildings meet reasonable standards of accessibility and to secure cost-effective improvements to the accessibility of the existing building stock when other intended building work is carried out. This should support, and complement the aims of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), without imposing disproportionate bureaucracy and costs. . It is expected to add to initial construction costs, but such costs should be offset by the diminution in potential liability of employers and service providers for the cost of access remediation work which may be required under the DDA.' It also states:
'BS8300, being based on validated research, establishes new and justifiable expectations.'
The proposed changes in the Requirements and to Approved Document M fall into three main categories:
Updating to take account of major changes to the relevant British Standard;
Bringing Part M in line with other Parts of the Building Regulations by extending its scope to include alterations to existing buildings and certain changes of use; and lApplying the concept of access and use for all.
The greater part of the anticipated increased costs will arise from meeting the significantly higher standards of proposed Approved Document M, now largely to be based upon BS8300. The standards for sanitary facilities are particularly enhanced with accessible WC compartments included in banks of separate sex lavatories and enlarged unisex facilities, approached separately from other sanitary accommodation, giving space enough for assistance to be rendered.
The floor area of accessible WC compartments has been increased by 10 per cent, and it is now described as being for 'ambulant disabled people'.
In the case of the 'unisex wheelchair accessible toilets, the greatly enlarged standards set out in BS8300 are advocated with provision being made at each floor level, with alternative left and right hand transfer layouts where more than one compartment is provided. A maximum travel distance of 40m to such toilets applies where the route to it is obstructed by doors without hold-open devices or where it is accessible by lift on another floor. In the case of hotel bedroom en-suite facilities, the floor area of the combined accommodation is increased by 37 per cent over the Part M existing recommendations.
An innovation in the Draft Approved Document, which is of particular significance, is the introduction of Access Statements. 'An Access Statement should be provided in respect of non-domestic buildings where a designer or developer wishes to depart from the guidance in Approved Document M. The statement should set out the reasons for departing from the guidance and the rationale for the design approach adopted.' It would seem likely that the services of accessibility consultants are going to be greatly in demand.
John Penton is a consultant member of the National Register of Access Consultants, tel 01727 868873, www. nrac. org. uk lThe consultation document is available from Paul Everall, head of Building Regulations, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 18B Portland House, Stag Place, London, SW1E 5LP or http: //www. safety. odpm. gov.
lThe consultation period closes on 29 November.