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. 


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.


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.  



Improving designers’ understanding of UD

Journal logoEducating designers to include the broader population in all their designs every time, not just in ‘special’ designs or projects, is an issue shared across borders. A group in Brazil conducted a design charrette for a graduate course on universal design to find out how to improve teaching in this discipline. The article titled, A universal design charrette conducted in an educational setting to increase professional sensitivity, was published in the Journal of Accessibility and Design for All in 2015.

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. The Charrette involved potential users with various disabilities who evaluated the design proposal using tactile maps and other communication media. The Charrette exercise included Wayfinding as an important topic in the design of buildings and urban spaces. Issues related to this aspect were translated into flowcharts as diagrams and tactile representations. The participation of users with disabilities was evaluated. The results showed that the Charrette, as a teaching method, was successful in making the student group examine questions regarding UD. However, the student group continued to be primarily concerned with the design’s formal aesthetic issues, and the process differed little from the traditional “designerly” ways of doing things. An analysis of the participatory phase showed that potential users with visual disabilities had difficulties understanding the design and the wheelchair users criticized various questions of access and barrier-free Wayfinding. Recommendations to improve “design for all” education are presented. To increase the sensitivity of professional designers to issues concerning UD, potential users with A universal design Charrette conducted in an educational setting to increase professional sensitivity of professional designers to issues concerning UD, potential users with disabilities should participate early in the design process, to provide input as the proposal is developed. Introducing a multidisciplinary design team should also be tested to include a larger variety of viewpoints in design decisions. This approach may strengthen the concern for elements of an architectural and urban design that directly affect person-environment relationships.


Should public buildings be exclusive?

This journal article comes from Niger. The pictures of schools show the contrast between expectations of developed and developing countries – worth a look just for that. Also, we can see that UD is truly a world-wide movement.

The article, Should Public Buildings Be Exclusive?  A Study of Selected Institutional Buildings in Minna, Niger State was published in the American Journal of Engineering research in 2015. 

ABSTRACT: Some individuals are born with a deformity also known as disability whereas others may become permanently or temporarily disabled over the course of their lives. Buildings should not be made to judge who comes in and goes out of its spaces. A good design must be accessible to all individuals, especially when discussing public buildings. An educational building is a public building and “education for all” is a common dictum that refers to all individuals irrespective of current status. Disabled individuals especially those in wheelchairs have special needs and requirements however, most Institutional buildings do not portray this equality with regards to their design; instead these designs ostracize individuals with disabilities. A survey was carried out on the existing special educational facility and forty four (44) randomly selected institutions of learning located in Minna, the capital of Niger State. They were further categorised based on funding; Federal, state or privately funded institutions. The survey showed that individuals with physical disabilities in Minna were not attending the special educational school and even if they were, facilities were not put in place to accommodate them also, despite the support by the Nigerian government on the equalisation of opportunities for people with disabilities, the public educational system have yet to factor in or retrofit designs to suit disabled individuals in their designs. This paper further highlighted these abnormalities in design and probable causes and concluded by recommending possible solutions.