The countdown to publication of an updated British Standard covering key features of the built environment should prompt designers and builders to think twice before embarking on new and planned projects.
The updates to BS 8300 could render important elements of existing guidance obsolete and could also bring new requirements with costly remedial work. Alternatively, the revised Standard may have limited impact and enable developers to press on with their projects.
As ever, the reality is likely to be somewhere in between. Whether your project requires a complete revamp, minor tweaks or no action at all is likely to depend on the nature and scale of the works. We’ve quoted for some clients who have projects in the pipeline, we are preparing quotes for more, and our advice therefore varies according to the scenario.
BS 8300 applies to a wide range of properties including commercial buildings, transport centres, schools and other educational establishments, health facilities, religious buildings, entertainment and leisure complexes and more.
It covers such internal features as doors, surface finishes and their design, lighting levels, design of steps and stairs, width and gradients of ramps and space requirements for wheelchairs and electric scooters.
External features reviewed as part of the consultation include parking spaces, public realm, external seating, lighting, outdoor events and setting down and picking up points.
The updated Standard is due to take effect early in 2018 and has been informed and influenced by a consultation process which attracted more than 1,000 responses from experts, enthusiasts and amateurs – anybody with a serious interest.
Some people in our sector expect to see a requirement for accessible WCs to be bigger. That would help wheelchair users and other disabled people, as well as their carers. But it could create problems where development is already under way.
If you have begun the construction phase it could be very difficult, if not impossible, to increase the space for accessible WCs, particularly where improved accessibility has already, sensibly, been addressed as part of the design phase.
There is even a possibility that features included specifically to meet current guidance may have to be ripped out if they are found to be significantly at odds with the new Standard. You might be able to delay such remedial work until refurbishment, but the uncertainty is why we are urging people to wait and see. Even with something as relatively straightforward as an access audit, there is a risk that any recommendations now will be superseded by the guidance within the up-to-date Standard.
If accessibility was not addressed at the design stage of your project then you could end up facing a completely different set of problems and costs, but we’ll focus on that another time!