Designing for a Multi-generational Workforce

Multi-generational workforce depicted through an office meetingThe generation gap is shrinking fast. No longer is it the case of the seasoned employee mentoring younger colleagues. Younger and older employees are now sharing knowledge and skills with each other. Joe Flynn points out in a White Paper that for the first time, our workforce consists of four generations of employees working alongside each another. With an ageing population and later retirement age, Flynn argues our workplaces need to be designed for greater demographic and gender diversity.

Joe Flynn is a workplace strategist with Margulies Perruzzi Architects. His white paper, The Multigenerational Workforce and its impact on Workplace Design, presents seven design principles:

  1. Abandon uniformity
  2. Design for flexibility
  3. Respect the past. Design for the future
  4. Focus on culture, not trend
  5. Plan with technology
  6. Remember ergonomics
  7. Design for a healthy office

Each of these points is explained in the paper.


Designing inclusively: Some examples

a man stands in front of a wall covered in bright coloured post it notes which have different ideas and actionsIt isn’t always easy to find examples of good practice in universal design, so it is good to see some on the the Design Council in the UK website. The video below has lots of examples of designing inclusively in the built environment. There are two key messages: get a diverse group of people together before you start designing, and think about all the extra people you can serve or sell to when you design with everyone in mind. While there are several videos around with a similar message, it is good to see the variety of environments covered – from transport to theatre. Rather than take an off-the-shelf ATM, Barclays Bank commissioned the design of their ATMs and came up with the idea of a niche to hang your walking stick – a key factor as if it falls to the ground, the owner may not be able to bend down to pick it up. The video is 8 minutes but worth the watch to the end.


New Urban Agenda

aerial view of a big city with skyscrapersCities are expanding across the globe and dictating how we live our lives. So the way they are designed is becoming increasingly important. Cities take up about 2% of the land mass but make up 70% of the economy, 60% of the global energy consumption, 70% of greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of global waste. The development of the UN New Urban Agenda has taken many years and there is a raft of documentation. The 5 page New Urban Agenda Explainer gives a more digestible overview. While the document does not mention universal design specifically, inclusion of all people to access the benefits of cities is a key theme. It also recommends a bottom up approach so that marginalised groups can participate in designing and developing urban areas. 

The New Urban Agenda was adopted by the United Nations at the end of 2016, and, “… represents a shared vision for a better and more sustainable future – one in which all people have equal rights and access to the benefits and opportunities that cities can offer, and in which the international community reconsiders the urban systems and physical form of our urban spaces to achieve this.”



Age and Dementia Streetscapes Toolkit

front cover of the toolkit showing a streetscapeThe City of Moonee Valley in Victoria commissioned AJA Architects to devise a resource to guide councils and local authorities designers to create more age and dementia friendly communities. The toolkit is the result of much community consultation with local communities.

The Age n Dem Toolkit has been developed to “provide practical guidance for the design of inclusive, accessible streetscapes for all. Based on the best available local and international evidence, it identifies elements that yellow background with a black call-out box with Age n Dem in itsupport inclusive built environment outcomes for older people generally as well as for people living with dementia.”

Guy Luscombe made a presentation at the 2016 Australian Universal Design Conference about the toolkit while it was being developed.


Changing Places or Lift and Change?

changing places toilet showing a large change table and hoistThe topic of universal design vs specialised design and Changing Places toilets has received more attention. George Xinos has written an article on this topic in Sourceable. His key point is that there is enough confusion within the industry on anything to do with access and disability without adding to it. However, this is not the whole story. In an effort to get more adult change facilities built, the NSW Government recently made funds available to assist local councils to build an adult change facility or to retrofit a suitable space. This meant that although the facility is fully functional with the essential change table, lifting gear and toilet, they might not meet the Changing Places best design practice and consequently could not be accredited as such and use the logo. Hence the additional term, Lift and Change. The aim has been to find a flexible way to get some functional adult change facilities built as quickly as possible whether they meet the standards of Changing Places or the Master Checklist for Lift and Change faciltiies, which have been published by Local Government NSW. Access Consultant John Evernden made a presentation at the 2017 Inaugural Disability Inclusion Access Awards which explains things in greater detail with case studies of success stories.

Changing Places facilities are not meant to replace or substitute for standard unisex accessible toilets. The same applies to NSW Lift and Change facilities. 


Liveable Streets the Dutch way

picture of a living street with front doors facing the paved and tree lined streetA Woonerf is an inclusive and liveable street and has its origins in the Netherlands. Living streets are known elsewhere by other names. In his article,  provides four key principles of a Woonerf: visible entrances, physical barriers (to slow traffic), shared and paved space, and landscaping and street furniture. While all this sounds wonderful there is a downside of cost. It requires extra engineering and ongoing maintenance. However, Steinberg argues this cost is offset by other factors. See the article for more and for a list of references on street design.


Design for Humans

picture shows a man and woman wearing white hard hats. the white text on red background says The go to guide for designing and building and developing in AucklandAuckland is one of the most liveable cities in the world and it is about to get better with universal design. The Auckland Design Manual and the accompanying Universal Design Tools puts people at the centre of the design. The OurAukland website says, “All people will have some kind of universal design moment in their lives where they find themselves potentially disadvantaged by their environment.” This is the basis of all design thinking in this excellent manual. Case studies, tools for planners and designers, and other resources are all included in this extensive free to download guide.

Auckland Design Manual logoEditor’s note: The progress made by Auckland City has been made possible by having a universal design expert on staff to educate and advise on a daily basis. Every local council should have such a person.


No go for platform lifts

open platform lift at the bottom of a stairwayIn the video below, a nice explanation of why stairway platform lifts are not the preferred option for wheelchair users and people with limited mobility. While these devices provide access in buildings where passenger lifts are not an option, they are best limited to retrofits of existing buildings. There should be no reason for designing these costly and awkward devices into new buildings. From a universal design perspective it usually means some critical thinking got lost at the design concept stage. These devices provide access in a technical sense, but they don’t provide equity of access, particularly as they need to call someone in the building to come and unlock and operate the device. So generally they will be avoided where possible. That might mean not using the building at all. Think of the potential commercial and social consequences of that. The video below from CERTIS Learning shows how these devices work and why they should be avoided.