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The Regs: Specifying disabled access and lifts

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Geoff Wilkinson looks at recent and forthcoming changes to the guidance on disabled access, and lifts in particular

Most AJ Specification readers will be familiar with the requirements for disabled access lifts in buildings. But it is worth just reviewing these in the light of important recent changes to some of the key standards.

There are three main pieces of guidance with respect to making a building accessible: the Equality Act; Part M; and British Standard BS 8300. These all help to outline the best practice in regards to preferences between passenger lifts.  

The Equality Act

The Equality Act imposes a requirement to make reasonable adjustments to a building to ensure that a disabled person is not discriminated against. It has replaced the almost identical requirement within the Disability Discrimination Act. 

Building control will expect that lift access is provided or  an access statement justifies a deviation from best practice

Part M

Part M states that the preferred way to provide disabled access is a passenger lift, particularly for new developments.

But it also recognises that it may not always be possible for a building to accommodate one on either a new or an existing development. In these situations, Part M suggests a hierarchy, starting with the passenger lift, then a platform lift and, lastly, a stairlift as the options to be considered. Note that acceptance of a stairlift (eg an open platform) is subject to consultation with the fire service to ensure its installation does not conflict with requirements for means of escape. 

In most cases, when a building is extended or altered, building control will expect that lift access is provided or that an access statement is submitted to explain why a deviation from best practice is necessary. An access statement should say why and what the implications are for users and what other methods are being taken to lessen the impact of the deviation and an explanation of the specific constraints should be included, for example those imposed by an existing structure which prevents the inclusion of a lift shaft. The hierarchy approach should be followed, explaining in turn why each option is being discounted. 

Wq sc westquay june 2017 n20

Wq sc westquay june 2017 n20

Escalators at Watermark WestQuay, Southampton, by ACME

British Standard BS 8300

BS 8300 was updated in 2017 and is now separated into two parts. Part 1 deals with designing accessible external environments and Part 2 deals with buildings themselves, eg entrances, reception facilities, horizontal and vertical movement, and facilities in the building. Architects still working to the 2009 version should consider purchasing the new standard to keep up to date. However, the changes are fairly minor, for example:

• Previous editions of BS 8300 advised specifically on designing for disabled people. The new BS 8300-2 explains how to design, build and manage the built environment in a way that is inclusive to all. The idea is that designing to address and integrate the access requirements of all people irrespective of their personal circumstances is always preferable to designating separate or specific features.

• The standard draws on experience gained during the design and operation of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and gives extensive guidance on the development of inclusive design strategies, the use of design and access statements and the development of an access strategy.

• The standard has also started to consider the needs of people with neuro-diverse conditions, though it is recognised that more research is needed in this area.

Other standards 

Another key change that architects should look out for is the update to BS EN81-20 and EN81-50 for the design and manufacture of lifts. Although first published in 2014, the new standards only took effect in August 2017 and any lift installed after that date must comply with the new standards.

A number of projects that stalled after gaining planning permission are now coming back to life and starting on site in order to preserve the planning permission. An issue that is often missed in such cases is that the lifts are likely to have been designed to the old standard and this will now cause a problem, as the requirements for space within the lift pits and lift overruns have increased. The new volumes are as follows:

  • Upright position: 0.4x0.5m (horizontal dimensions), 2m (height)
  • Crouching position: 0.5x0.7m (horizontal dimensions), 1m (height)
  • Laying position: 0.7x1.0m (horizontal dimensions), 0.5m (height).

If you have such a scheme, it is well worth checking that the original spec meets these space standards, as it will no longer be legal to supply a lift that does not.

Geoff Wilkinson is managing director of Wilkinson Construction Consultants www.thebuildinginspector.org

This article originally appeared in the February issue of AJ Specification

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