Opening the Door to Inclusive Environments

Here, Eryl Jones, Managing Director of the ASSA ABLOY Door Hardware Group, advises on the opportunities available for inclusive building designs, the key considerations for door opening solutions, and the potential risks of not complying with these.

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Julie Fleck, a prolific strategic access and inclusive design advisor, states: “A lot of architects and designers want to do their best to meet inclusivity standards, but then they might face a client that wants to design things out and cover the legal minimum.” This can be a real challenge for architects looking to prioritise inclusive design, which should now be viewed as a non-negotiable.

When talking about inclusive design, many immediately think of those with a disability or a specific, specialist requirement. Naturally, buildings must be designed for these individuals, and key market drivers such as an ageing population and consumer buying power are ensuring the needs of these people can no longer be seen as a second thought. Indeed, BS 8300-2:2018 – the British Standard setting out how buildings should be designed, constructed and maintained – was most recently updated in 2018, with its emphasis shifting from creating an ‘accessible’ environment to one that’s ‘inclusive’. It now prioritises ensuring those with specific needs have these accommodated within a general space, and not set apart in a separate area.

In essence, inclusive design aims to remove the barriers that might prevent an individual from using an environment freely and with ease. Everyone will experience limited mobility at some point in their lives, whether it’s as a tourist laden with bulky luggage, a parent with a young child, an older person, or someone that might have suffered an injury. The key is to overcome any challenges that might restrict or limit a building to be used independently.

The guidelines governing inclusive design include Approved Document M, the Equality Act 2010, and BS 8300-1 and BS 8300-2: 2018. It is vital that architects have a thorough understanding of how these policies influence inclusive design.

Door considerations

Door opening solutions can potentially be a common barrier to inclusive design. There are many considerations that need to be taken into account to comply with BS 8300-2:2018, for example, opening and closing forces.

For instance, to enable independent access through a door, the opening force – when measured at the leading edge of the door – should be no greater than 30 N, when moving from the closed position to 30° open. Then, the opening force required from 30 to 60° should be no more than 22.5 N. Then, in terms of the maximum closing force exerted by a controlled door closing device, this should be within 0 and 15° of final closure. Architects also need to take into account considerations such as wheelchair access, effective clear widths, door fittings and visual considerations.

Understanding the guidelines governing inclusive design is also critical for fire doors, to ensure all people are able to escape in the event of a fire or other emergency. For instance, BS EN 1154:1997 is a British and European Standard that covers the specific requirements for controlled closing devices for swing doors. The standard classifies door closers using a six-digit system, with the third digit relating to the door mass and size. Depending on the width of the door, the maximum mass is offered, and the related door closer power size identified. For example, if a door width is 950mm, the maximum mass of the door should be 60kg, and the door closer power size is EN 3.

However, it’s important to note that for any fire door fitted with a door closer, EN 3 is the minimum door closer power size allowed, regardless of what the door width is. Therefore, to comply with the guidelines governing inclusive design, architects must opt for a door closer that delivers a power setting of EN 3.

Risks of non-compliance

The fall-out of non-compliance can be considerable. In the event of a discrimination claim, those that can demonstrate adherence to BS 8300-2:2018 will be on safer ground than those that cannot. While it is ultimately the building owner that bears responsibility for the design of a building, architects have a moral and ethical obligation to advise on and specify solutions that deliver inclusivity.

Architects should also beware of some of the common issues with those door opening solutions available on the market that claim to comply with standards such as BS 8300-2:2018, when in actual fact they do not.

For example, many suppliers will claim to offer compliant solutions by ‘winding down’ a door closer and its spring to power setting EN1. However, while this may help people open a door more easily, it will not provide the necessary closing force. As a result, the door will not deliver the safety and security assurances demanded of an inclusive environment.

To help architects understand the guidelines governing inclusive design, ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions UK & Ireland has published a free new white paper. Titled ‘Inclusive design – why should you care?’, it can be downloaded from our website, and provides a best practice approach to ensuring door opening solutions can meet the requirements for inclusive building designs, and the risks of not complying with these.

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