Neurodiversity and built environments: A guide

A woman's face in multicolours wearing sunglasses. representing neurodiversity in building design.A significant number of people find certain aspects of the built environment uncomfortable, distressing or a barrier due to neurological differences. To address this, the British Standards Institute has a guide for designing built environments to include people who are neurodivergent. The whole population is neurodiverse, individuals might be neurotypical or neurodivergent. 

The guide covers external spaces for public and commercial use as well as residential accommodation for independent living. It is one of the few documents that explains neurodiversity in a way that designers can understand.

Neurodiverse and neurotypical

The term ‘neurodiversity’ and ‘neurodiverse’ are clarified in the introduction. Neurodiversity is about us all – it is not one condition. It is about the way each of thinks, speaks, moves and communicates. It is better explained as “sensory and/or information processing difference” and this is the term frequently used in the guide. 

Different terms are used to describe different neurological profiles: 

1. Neurotypical: someone fitting a majority neurological profile and is not neurodivergent.
2. Neurodivergent: someone who sits outside majority neurological profile commonly associated with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and Tourette’s syndrome. 
3. Neurodegenerative: A condition whereby sensory processing differences develop over time such as Parkinson’s.

The guide deals with:

    • Lighting
    • Acoustics
    • Décor
    • Flooring
    • Layout
    • Wayfinding
  • Familiarity
  • Clarity
  • Safety
  • Thermal comfort
  • Odour

Neurodiversity and the built environment guide front cover.The title of the guide is, PAS 6463:2022 Design for the mind. Neurodiversity and the built environment. Guide. The link will take you to the introductory web page where you can request a free digital copy for download. Note that you will need an additional app to open the document and to sign in as a user. It’s worth the effort.

The guide is just that. It is not a specification or code of practice and it is assumed that it will be used by qualified people. The guide does not cover special education environments, dementia or complex care settings or detailed guidance on sensory room design.

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