Inclusive buildings, accessible spaces: action and collaboration

By Jacqui Allen

We work with leading investors and occupiers to create accessible and inclusive buildings which go beyond current industry standards. In the latest edition of Property Week, TFT Partner Jacqui Allen calls for ambition and action from across the industry to support a wider spectrum of building users, and create more resilient built assets in the process.

TFT’s Redefining Building Performance report found several gaps between strategic aims and short-term action, among developers, investors and occupiers of commercial property. One of these gaps was in understanding and improving the occupant experience. For many of these respondents, measurement was not seen as a priority and planned investment was low for developers and investors, but occupant organisations prize it as a differentiator for future employees and customers.

Our industry is still charting the pathway to full building use. In this climate, building trust and desire to use commercial buildings relies on user focus, including broader support for groups which are typically overlooked when it comes to accessible design and inclusive building facilities.

Accessible and inclusive design can cover visible and non-visible disabilities as well as considerations of personal care arrangements for individuals who need that support. Whether you use buildings as an office occupier, retailer, educational establishment or a public service, encouraging people to use your space to its fullest requires navigating challenges in design and management.

The good news is, there are several approaches to improving this situation. There are specific standards and guides for improving spaces, as well as standards which capture a wider view of the building user experience.

Ultimately, the best solution should be defined with the occupier in question alongside developer and/or owner input to bring it to reality in the best way. We have found this to work well on client projects where long-term and high quality occupants instigate a different approach to raise the bar for their workers, visitors, and other building users. Collaboration which puts those objectives at the heart of a project brief will always deliver the best outcomes over solutions delivered last-minute or as a compromise with other outcomes.

For those without a strategy in place but looking for a place to begin, the wide-ranging WELL Standard is worth investigating. We implement this standard across an array of projects encompassing different building types and client requirements. Within strategic frameworks such as these, there is a range of ‘beyond-compliance’ guidance and standards for more specific elements of a building. Getting more specific, the Changing Places standard for accessible bathrooms, which we have installed in shopping centres such as Guildford’s The Priory, provides more comprehensive support than traditional accessible bathroom facilities.

Read Jacqui’s full article in Property Week, here:

Contact Jacqui Allen here.