Stairway design and safety

stairwayThis comprehensive Masters of Architecture thesis by Karen Kim looks at every aspect of stairway design and safety.

Extract from Abstract:  This thesis examined contemporary practices in stairway design and their effects on the behavior of stair users. A review of the professional literature identified innovative stairway design features related to stair safety. Two potentially hazardous features were identified for assessment in the real world: glass stair treads and interactive sound. Observations of stair use were collected at five different stairways in public buildings. The chosen design features were present in three of these stairways, and the other two stairways were constructed in a conventional manner. The incidence of unsafe stair use and key behaviors on the stairways were documented and compared. 

For more on design and BCA regulations, go to the Ozstair website


Libraries for all types of reader

Every Reader a Library, Every Library its Reader: Designing Responsive Libraries for Our Communities

Overhead view of library shelvesThe National Library Board of Singapore is embracing new ways of reading, learning and creating knowledge. Their aim in revamping their libraries is to be inclusive of learning styles as well as being physically accessible.  

The article includes a case study with illustrations of the re-modelling of an existing library.


Impact of local built environment attributes on the elderly sociability

This article focuses on the importance of social connectedness for older people and how this is essential for ongoing health and wellbeing. However, environments continue to be designed and built in ways that are often detrimental to older people being able to get out and about and socialise.

The research showed that the qualities of “safety”, “attractiveness” and “inclusiveness” respectively are the most influential factors on the sociability of older people. The results also determined that fear of injury is the most limiting factor in using urban spaces.

Download the article by H. Khosravi , F. Gharai, and Sh. Taghavi, in the International Journal of Architectural Engineering and Urban Planning.


Urban Development and Citizen Participation

From tyranny to capability? Exploring the potential of the capability approach in participatory designed processes

This paper starts with a quote: “The idea of citizen participation is a little like eating spinach: no one is against it in principle because it is good for you” (Arnstein, 1969, p.216) 

“The metaphor points to a superficial cleansing of the conscience, an intervention that does not eradicate the problem altogether, in the way spinach might sporadically be eaten to cleanse the body of an unhealthy lifestyle. It means that participatory processes might be used, because of their ‘goodness,’ in a manipulative way. By proclaiming participation, I legitimise my intervention.”

This paper was published in a special issue of The Capability Approach in Development Planning and Urban Design, published by the University College London.

Download the full document (180 page book) which includes other papers related to this topic.



The codification and regulation of architects’ practices

Kings College logoThis article written by Rob Imrie discusses how rules and regulations pervade and influence, or codify, architects’ practices. 

Abstract: It is commonly assumed that building regulation and control is a technical and value neutral activity, and part of a bureaucratic machine external to the design process. For many architects, building regulations are no more than a set of rules to be adhered to, and are usually seen as ephemeral, even incidental, to the creative process of design. However, the main argument of this paper suggests that the building regulations are entwined with, and are constitutive of, architects’ practices. Far from being an insignificant part of the design process, as some commentators suggest, I develop the argument that the building regulations influence aspects of creative practice and process in architecture and, as such, ought to be given greater attention by scholars of urban design.

A subsequent article by Emma Street discusses the difficulties of terminology surrounding codes and regulations. 

Abstract: As researchers an important part of our role is to engage critically with the terminology and related literature that intersects with our research interests. Whilst I do not wish to claim this paper offers a comprehensive review, it will demonstrate an engagement with the multiple, and frequently contentious debates surrounding the concepts of ‘regulation’ and ‘codification’ that we refer to in the title of our research.  



Costs and Benefits of Building Projects

This is a technical article from Canada with the full title of, “Integrating Building Information Modeling (BIM) with Sustainable Universal Design Strategies to Evaluate the Costs and Benefits of Building Projects”.

Links are made with sustainability and the need to factor in UD at the beginning of the process as with sustainability. For the tech people it gives mathematical computations and diagrams, and for others, there is useful information such as:
“Although, implementing sustainable strategies in buildings (new/existing) showed better economical trend over the long run, its initial associated cost is doubtable. The results of a survey conducted in 2007 by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development found that the costs of sustainable buildings are “overestimated” for an additional cost of 17 percent added to the cost of conventional building which is considered more than triple the actual cost of 5 percent”.

Go to the article by Bader Alsayyar and Ahmad Jrade, University of Ottawa.


Improving designers’ understanding of UD – a research article

A universal design charrette conducted in an educational setting to increase professional sensitivity

This article from Brazil reports on  project to overcome the difficulties of educating designers to include the broader population in all their designs every time, not just in ‘special’ designs or projects.  Go to: Journal of Accessibility and Design for All (CC) JACCES, 2015 – 5(1): 47-76. 

Note: this is a web download and might take some time to complete

Abstract: This paper describes a design Charrette conducted in a graduate course on Universal Design (UD), in which students, here professional architects, developed a design project for a public-service centre. The goal of the Charrette was to understand the effectiveness of this type of teaching method to increase the designers’ sensitivity toward UD issues and gain knowledge on participatory processes. 

Continue reading Improving designers’ understanding of UD – a research article