ACCESSIBLE HOUSING DESIGN
The Centre for Accessible
Environments discusses how high
specification and best practice
can put contractors ahead when
it comes to meeting the access
requirements of local authority
and social housing providers.
The mobility features of wheelchair accessible
bungalows include wide front and rear
entrances with accessible level thresholds
SEPTEMBER 8 | BUILDING PRODUCTS
Inclusive, accessible design underpins the
delivery of future-proof high-quality homes.
The 2015 revisions to the Building Regulations
introduced clear accessibility standards in
M4(2) Category 2: Accessible and adaptable
dwellings and M4(3) Category 3: Wheelchair user
dwellings into Approved Document M, Volume 1.
This improved guidance is crucial to planners,
designers and developers delivering new-build
properties to meet the commercial requirements of
local authority and social housing providers.
Properties offering greater flexibility can be
built to accessible standards whether residents are
disabled or non-disabled. Central government’s
National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
addresses housing policy and local infrastructure to
deliver inclusive and sustainable communities.
Local authorities’ policy objectives and
strategic targets include meeting demand for
mixed tenure housing that is fit for purpose.
Homes that are accessible and adaptable as
needed meet this criteria. Independent research
indicates 51% of local authorities have adopted
an up to date local plan as aligned with
requirements set out in the NPPF.
Financial value and social benefits
The same research indicates the need for 140,000
new homes in England and Wales in 2019, with
local authorities and the NHS seeing the financial
value and social benefits of accessible and flexible
housing. In evaluating just three such housing
schemes in England, the NHS cited an overall
cost-saving of £2m. Accessible housing (including
wheelchair accessible housing) has been identified
as beneficial for patients who can be discharged
early from hospital and the ability for tenants to
stay at home longer represents greater value for
local authorities. The potential to adapt existing
homes, means housing budgets are less strained to
meet changing demand.
Accessible layouts can equate to improved
quality of life. Wheelchair users in particular, can
enjoy increased independence in accessible living
environments. This is evidenced in Raynville
Crescent, a high specification, mixed tenure
development, launched this year by Habinteg
The wheelchair accessible dwellings on the
scheme have been designed based on principles
set out in Habinteg’s Wheelchair Housing Design
Guide, now in its third edition.
The guidance offers clear explanations of the
rationale of revised Building Regulations as well
as additional best practice recommendations.
The guide covers both M4(3) (2)(a) wheelchair
adaptable dwellings (where simple adaptations
meet requirements) and M4(3) (2)(b) wheelchair
accessible dwellings suitable for immediate
occupation by wheelchair users.
Benefits of the guidance are passed on to
residents like Mr Wheaton, a wheelchair user
who has moved from largely inaccessible
accommodation to a wheelchair accessible
bungalow in the new scheme. Mr Wheaton, who
has multiple sclerosis, lives alone. Accommodation
on a single level allows him to leave his home
without needing to negotiate any changes in level
from his bungalow to external areas on the estate.
The mobility features of wheelchair accessible
bungalows like those in Raynville Crescent include
wide front and rear entrances with accessible level
thresholds. Paths to homes from parking or dropoff
points have suitable gradients and surfacing that
are easier for wheelchair users to manage.
Generous living spaces allow sufficient
corridor width to easily move between rooms.
This includes the provision of turning circles.
Bedrooms and living areas are planned to
accommodate a range of standard furniture while
allowing ample circulation space and access to
windows. Kitchens offer accessible storage and
appliances. Counters are height adjustable to
facilitate reach. The level of manoeuvrability for
wheelchair accessible dwellings should also take
into consideration residents’ potentially complex
health conditions and more than one wheelchair
occupying the home.
Typically, wet rooms with a level access shower
are provided in wheelchair accessible properties.
Sanitaryware is positioned for ease of transfer
from a wheelchair to essential facilities. Sufficient
space in the wet room and WC facilities maximise
independence. Spatial flexibility allows personal
assistance to the wheelchair user. Careful selection
of fixtures and fittings, such as grab rails, can create
a homely, rather than clinical feel.
The provision of wheelchair accessible dwellings
built to best practice guidelines invariably equates
to commercial benefits for contractors, delivering
truly inclusive homes for the future.