Building Code: Rights and Research

picture of a modern building Norway Opera House.Building regulation is a highly contested space, especially in relation to disability access. So the Norwegian Building Authority decided that standards and codes should be based on evidence rather than the views, compromises and experience of interest groups. The Norwegian Research Laboratory for Universal Design was set up to focus on access solutions using established research methods. But this brings about a dilemma.

People with disability have fought for many years to have equal access to the built environment. “Some of the criteria have been based on compromises and “old truths”. These criteria are now put under scrutiny. This examination and possible reversal of minimum requirements may feel like a slap in the face of those who have fought for these rights. But what is the possible downside?” 

Their research results are based on the 90th percentile. But what happens to those who are outside the 90%?  Who pays for the compensatory adaptations or assistance? This is where it becomes political. Nevertheless, research by the Laboratory suggests that “those who cannot manage the minimum levels cannot manage any level”.

The paper provides some interesting research results on doorway approaches and ramp gradients. A relatively short paper with some good food for thought.

The title of the paper is, Deregulation of the Building Code and the
Norwegian Approach to Regulation of Accessibility in the Built Environment

Abstract: Deregulation is on the political agenda in the European countries. The Norwegian building code related to universal design and accessibility is challenged. To meet this, the Norwegian Building Authority have chosen to examine established truths and are basing their revised code on scientific research and field tests. But will this knowledge-based deregulation comply within the framework of the anti-discrimination act and, and if not: who suffers and to what extent?  

This project is part of the quest for Norway Universally Designed by 2025 and the updated Action Plan

Access to Premises Standard and existing buildings

A Westpac bank branch in NSW country town. It is a large old two storey house with steps to the entranceMichael Small’s Churchill Fellowship report tracks and compares discrimination laws and industry practice in relation to public buildings. He questions whether the control of the Access to Premises Standard is falling more into the hands of industry as Human Rights Commission resources are becoming increasingly constrained. Three of his recommendations are: that more training is needed for industry to help them understand the standards; more flexibility is needed for building upgrades; and better systems are needed for compliance enforcement and auditing. The title of his report is, Ensuring the best possible access for people with disability to existing buildings that are being upgraded or extended. The countries visited and compared are Canada, United States of America, Ireland and United Kingdom. 

Survey on accessible housing

Front cover of the reportIf you want to know what people think about accessible housing, the findings from a recent survey will give you a good idea. With the prospect of a Regulatory Impact Assessment of accessible housing on the horizon this is a timely report. There are four narratives that frame the report: the housing industry view; the government view; prospective buyers’ view; and the perspective of people who need mainstream accessible housing. The survey was initiated by Australian Network on Universal Housing Design and the data were collated, analysed and discussed by Courtney Wright and Jacinta Colley from Griffith University. It is a lengthy but detailed report. Essential reading for anyone interested in this topic and/or who wants to know the history behind the universal design in housing campaign that goes back nearly 20 years. Dr Courtney Wright will be presenting the findings at the 3rd Australian Universal Design Conference in Brisbane 4-5 September.