Accessible Design for Apartment Buildings

At Buju Architects we believe that all should have access to suitable and well-designed housing, where their accessibility needs are met. We design with a focus on functionality as well as aesthetics, to achieve our goal of enhancing the quality of lives and creating buildings to better support wellbeing.

Developers and architects have a responsibility to ensure apartment buildings are accessible to all, and we will always encourage taking this opportunity except in cases where it is entirely impractical. There are 14.1 million people who have disabilities in the UK (Scope UK Charity, ref. scope.org.uk), whose accessibility needs vary case by case. When designing spaces in the UK, the statutory criteria is set out in Approved Document M: Access to and Use of Buildings.

The Regulations

There are three categories listed in the most up-to-date approved building regulations document M:

Cat A: Visitable Dwellings – The mandatory baseline requirement, but will not be suitable for many potential users with accessibility needs.

Cat B: Accessible and Adaptable Dwellings – A good level of accessibility is met here and internal configurations can be made to adapt them to meet the needs of wheelchair users.

Cat C: Wheelchair User Dwellings – The highest level of accessibility listed, which will be move-in ready for a wheelchair user.

Meeting the Regulations

Traeth Bychan Apartments is one of our current housing developments in coastal North Wales. Our vision was to create a beautifully balanced and sympathetic development of permanent housing adding a vibrant node to the area. This includes restoring and giving a new lease of life to the hotel in the form of apartments, and we have designed it to meet the requirements of Category B.

This means we are providing accessible and adaptable dwellings which have needed to meet a number of criteria in all areas of the development including the grounds, communal circulation spaces and the individual apartments themselves.

Approach & Building Entrance

The car park has generously sized spaces allowing for boat trailers and longer vehicles, with accessible parking closest to the apartments and pathways. Integrated within the car park are landscaped areas for attended soft play and foot access to the properties. The site layout also includes several well lit common access points to promote natural surveillance, creating a community feel.

We have met the statutory criteria of Approved Doc M:

  • Provision of accessible parking spaces and drop-off point
  • Suitable ground surface to be used in external grounds (for instance for a wheelchair to move freely on)
  • Step-free access to the building entrance door
  • Sufficient clear space outside entrance door for manoeuvrability
  • Barrier matting of appropriate pattern so not to impede movement (for instance for wheelchair)

Communal Hallways

The entrance hallway will be well lit with PIR light fittings and featuring large rooflights that will flood the atrium in daylight; creating a warm and welcoming space. Providing a lift facility across all three floors as an alternative to a staircase was a key consideration, alongside other accessibility criteria:

  • PIR lighting to all communal areas
  • Sufficient width to corridors
  • Communal staircase to meet Part K to protect against falls as standard
  • Elevator to be installed, with sufficient space inside and on landings outside. The lift must have sufficient dwell time before doors begin to close.

Apartments 

Designed for permanent residents, the refurbished hotel will comprise of nine apartments. During the design process, we were keen to maximise natural daylight and take full advantage of the views of the surrounding landscape. To achieve this, we’ve created 3 predominately glazed gables; each with their own spacious balconies and stylish French doors. 

Circulation & Living Spaces

  • Level and step-free at apartment entrance door and throughout
  • Entrance door as well as doors to balcony and main living spaces wide enough to give min. 850mm clear width, with sufficient space for manoeuvrability.
  • Doors to bedrooms and bathrooms, and any doors directly off the hallway of width to give min 775mm clear width.
  • Balconies are of generous size.
  • More than sufficient clear width to hallways
  • In kitchens 1200mm clear space is provided in front of units.

Apartments Bedrooms

Bedrooms must be of appropriate size to allow for movement to enable a range of people to use them.

  • Wide clear route to main window in all bedrooms.
  • At least one double bedroom in each apartment has been designed to provide wide clear space around all sides of bed. Other bedrooms will provide reasonable clear space.

Apartments Bathrooms & En-Suites

Bedrooms and en-suites need specific consideration so that they are easily adaptable for someone with greater accessibility needs.

  • Walls, ducts and boxing must be strong enough to potentially support grab rails, shower seats or other adaptations, with a load of up to 1.5kN/m
  • Main bathroom to contain toilet, basin and bath with shower fittings, with reasonable clear space to access the bath and in front of basin.
  • Well-sized bathroom will allow for space in case of need to install a level access shower in place of the bath.

Apartments General Services & Controls

All services and controls will be at a suitable height so that they can be accessed by people who have reduced reach. This is to include: 

  • Consumer units
  • Switches, sockets and controls
  • Handles to windows
  • Boiler timer controls and thermostats

At Buju we love to help our clients make the most out of their projects, designing with consideration and with a focus on creating beautiful and well-balanced spaces that enrich our everyday lives. We have the experience to advise clients on a range of specialist care facilities including in homes for individuals with specific needs, in schools and in dementia care accommodation.

Whether it is an individual home, a commercial fit-out or a masterplan, we approach each project on a case by case basis and will take the time to understand what is important for your scheme.

Building Regulation Doc M Accessibility criteria up-to-date at the time of publication of the blog.

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