A UD approach to fitouts

Front cover of the guideAll you ever wanted to know about reception desks, waiting areas, storage, coin operated machines, kitchen sinks and ticket dispensers. These and other related topics are covered in a guide to taking a universal design approach to facilities in buildings. This is a companion to the internal environments booklet, also from the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design. One of the key issues in creating universally designed places and spaces is the details are often left until last and not integrated into the whole of design. The introduction to Design Issues begins,

“Integration, not afterthought: Many facilities in buildings will be designed and specified by the project team, for example, a built-in kitchen or refreshment area in a new building or refurbishment project. By considering the spatial and detailed requirements of such facilities at the outset, clients and designers will be able to provide facilities that meet the needs of the broadest range of people and be universally designed.” 

A UD approach to internal environments

Front cover of the publication.Floor finishes, lighting, acoustics, hearing systems, signage and alarm systems are all included in a guide to taking a universal design approach to the design of internal environments.  Although the booklet covers specific aspects in detail, they are interrelated. And of course they need to be taken into consideration with the overall design of the building. Published by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland it is very detailed. Checklists help guide the reader through the material. This booklet links with others in the series, particularly the one on entrances and circulation spaces.  

A UD approach to all building types

Front cover of the guide.A guide from the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design covers all types of public buildings: offices, transport, retail, shopping centres, restaurants and bars, museums, galleries, libraries, entertainment centres, religious buildings, hotels, outdoor areas, parks and historic sites. The whole guide takes a universal design approach to all aspects of building design and across all types of buildings. It’s a very detailed guide, but the sections have clear subheadings. 

The guide contains checklists for each section and pictures show some of the design issues needing to be overcome. This is a comprehensive publication and brings together all building types together in one place. This makes it a good resource for local authorities that need to join the dots between all buildings in their community. It is also useful for planners and designers involved in one or more of the building types. 

Dementia Friendly Hospitals: An in-depth study

A hosptial room with three empty beds. It looks very clinical.People with dementia find new places and routines challenging. So when it comes to going to hospital they often experience increased anxiety and disorientation. The design of the hospital environment can have an effect on this group. That’s the finding of some new research carried out in hospitals where they interviewed patients and family members. “The voices of patients, particularly persons with dementia and their APs, are a crucial element in helping hospitals to fulfill their role as caregiving and healing facilities”.

The title of the article is, Dementia Friendly Hospital Design: Key Issues for Patients and Accompanying Persons in an Irish Acute Care Public Hospital  You will need institutional access for a free read. This is further work from Ireland on their guide to dementia friendly hospitals

Objectives: Research was conducted to investigate the impact of the hospital environment on older people including patients with dementia and their accompanying persons (APs). The article presents key research findings in the case study hospital.

Background: For many patients, the hospital is challenging due to the busy, unfamiliar, and stressful nature of the environment. For a person with dementia, the hospital experience can be exacerbated by cognitive impairment and behavioral or psychological symptoms and can therefore prove to be a frightening, distressing, and disorientating place.

Method: The findings are based on a stakeholder engagement process where the research team spent approximately 150 hr observing within the hospital, administered 95 questionnaires to patients and/or APs, and conducted 12 structured interviews with patients and APs. A thematic analysis was employed to analyze and generate key themes emerging from the process.

Results: Themes were grouped into overarching issues and design issues across spatial scales.

Conclusion: This research confirms the negative impact of the acute hospital setting on older people with cognitive impairments including dementia and delirium. The multiple perspectives captured in this study, including most importantly people with dementia, ensure that stakeholder needs can be used to inform the design of the hospital environment. The research points to the value of understanding the lived experience of the person with dementia and APs. The voices of patients, particularly persons with dementia and their APs, are a crucial element in helping hospitals to fulfill their role as caregiving and healing facilities. 

Universal Design and Health

The Center for Health DesignThe logo of Center for Health Design based in California has an excellent checklist that focuses on design features specific to older people. Of course, such features will generally benefit others. The checklist supports a universal design approach to environments for ageing populations. It is not designed as a list of comprehensive specifications, but a “thought starter”. It is probably best used to guide the discussion of design teams at the outset of a project. The checklist covers Home and Community including dwellings, Healthcare and design of clinics and emergency rooms, and Workplace designs and strategies.

The checklist matrix lists the strategy or goal, design considerations for the built environment, and the universal implications (benefits for everyone). For example, the goal of ageing in place in one’s home requires (among others) features that are easy to clean and maintain. The universal implication is that it increases the suitability of housing for a wider range of users and potential buyers. The checklist has a comprehensive reference list to support the content and for further reading.



Autism and Building Design

A young girl is wide-eyed with a drooping mouth as is she is about to be unhappy.If designers are not thinking about autistic people now, they soon will be, or should be. Autistic people have the same rights to functional and accessible spaces as everyone else. In his article on Branch Pattern website, Stuart Shell gives an overview of ASD (autism spectrum disorder). He explains why building owners and designers need to include this group, and how it will create great architecture at the same time.

One in one hundred and fifty children were diagnosed with ASD in 2000. ASD can take the form of extra sensory awareness, and higher levels of anxiety or involuntary responses. However, most autistic people say they have their own way of experiencing the world – not a “disorder”. He concludes with a list of design options and different guidelines. It is a lengthy but very useful article that includes acoustics, lighting, thermal comfort and material finishes and furniture. There is a list of references at the end for further reading. What Autism Teaches Us About Design is an easy and comprehensive read on an important topic. 

As an aside, he mentions studies that show exposure to particulate matter (eg from motor vehicles) during pregnancy increased the odds of having a child with ASD.

Universal Design Improves Access Compliance

An old red bus on the street.What can you do to improve compliance with disability access standards when they are misunderstood, seen as too hard to implement, and where buildings are in a serious state of disrepair? This was the challenge set by Australia’s overseas aid program in Sri Lanka. The aim of this project was to find a way to educate built environment professionals in Sri Lanka about complying with disability access regulations. Rather than take a text book approach to explaining the standards, the training group decided to take a universal design approach. That meant focusing on the reasons why certain designs were needed, not just the need to apply the standard.

In her paper on this project, Penny Galbraith details the particular issues Sri Lanka faces. Major heritage sites, assets in complete disrepair, obsolete infrastructure, and transport conveyance designs from previous centuries all contribute to the complexities. “Universal design was the ideal starting point, not least because of its emphasis on users, but also that it allows for acknowledging and embracing cultural factors which is very important given ethnic tension in Sri Lanka”. 

An interesting application of the principles of universal design. It shows that reducing barriers in the built environment is reliant on understanding why, not just how to comply. The title of the paper is, A Practitioner’s Universal Design Approach Making a Difference to Distressed Assets in Sri Lanka

The paper is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.

Design tool for dementia-friendly public buildings

A basic floor plan showing a meeting room, toilets, reception and lobby area.The online tool for Dementia Enabling Environments has a section on public buildings. A click on the Public Buildings picture takes you to a page with a floor plan. Clicking on a room in the floor plan brings up a 3D view of the room. Hovering the mouse over questions marks in the room brings up more detailed information about design ideas that are good for people with dementia. Of course, these designs are usable for almost anyone else who is ambulatory, including people with other cognitive conditions.

This is an excellent resource that takes accessibility beyond the access codes which don’t cover this level of design. The Dementia Enabling Environments tool also covers homes, care settings, and gardens and nature. There are links to other resources as well.

This website has lots of other information about dementia design. You can use the search facility on the menu, or to get you going here are eight references

Remembering to be dementia-friendly

A yellow notepad with the word Remember. Here are some good resources for considering people with dementia in designs. The topic of dementia can also include people with acquired brain injury and other cognitive conditions at any age. They’ve been collected from this website for ready reference.Too many good publications are soon forgotten after their launch.

Dementia Friendly Homes – an app from Dementia Australia.

Designing Homes with Dementia in Mind – research from Aalborg University.

Dementia Friendly Assessment Tool – a community assessment tool.

Dementia Friendly Home Design – this one from Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland – very well researched.

Dementia friendly hospitals from a universal design approach – another from Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland.

Exploring Technology, Design and Dementia – PhD thesis from Canada 

Improving the lives of people with dementia through urban design – case studies from UK and published in the Journal of Urban Design and Mental Health.

Enlighten: Lighting for older people and people with dementia – from a lighting specialist.

Invisible and Ubiquitous: UD at its best

The entry to Stortinget metro in Olso showing the uncluttered design with easy access for everyone.Universal design can be embedded in refurbishments and upgrades without anyone noticing. Using a case study of a train station in Norway, Richard Duncan explains how it was done. Norway is a global leader in implementing UD strategies. Their landmark document, Norway Universally Designed by 2025, focuses on inclusive policies where everyone is made responsible. Two surveys from 2018 reveal a gradual change in attitude about universal design. More people understand the concept and agree with the principle of, “Universal design is necessary for some and useful for many”. 

Duncan’s article, Right Under Your Nose: Universal Design in Norway is an easy to read article and is based on Olav Rand Bringa’s work. There is more on this website about the work of Bringa that traces the history of universal design in Norway.

Universal Design and Visitability: From accessibility to zoning.  

Progress on Universal Design in Norway: A review 

Universal Design as a Technical Norm and Juridical Term – A Factor of Development or Recession? Bringa discusses the importance of language in the quest for inclusion.  

Photo by Olav Rand Bringa showing the improved and uncluttered entrance to the station.