Transcript for presentation:

Awareness is Essential if Accessibility in Existing Buildings


Sidse Grangaard


E4. Accessibility in the built environment

Date and Time

2014-06-18, 10:50 - 11:10


MA 6

Presentation PDF

Short oral presentation

Transcript of the talk

So the next presenter comes from our neighbor country, Denmark. It’s Sidse Grangaard and she will talk about awareness is essential if accessibility in existing buildings.

>> Hi. My name is Sidse and as was told I’m from Denmark. The Danish Building Research Institute. We have address in Copenhagen.
Today I will tell you a story about a case study in an existing building, and then we are going to look at the factors that had an impact on the accessibility in the building.
It is an old power station and there was a competition in 2006, but before we can describe the building as being very complexed. There was a lot of different levels. I don’t know how to use this, but we can see at the drawing up there. And the power station was made for machines. They were not thinking about accessibility for people.
And I also have to remember to say that this part is new, but we have four — we have five different elements of buildings built together during that last 100 years. So it was very complex. In 2006 can, during the period from 2006 to 2011, this building was transformed. So today we can find cinemas, an art gallery, restaurants, sports club, and also a sports club for disabled people. So it’s a very interesting place with public assist and a lot of different users, different kinds of users. So that’s why we chose this for a case study. We were going to make this explorative study that determined this at Nordkraft. That’s the name of this power station. There were a lot of accessibility solution in this building, so we have to narrow, and we chose to — we chose 14 solutions, spaces for wheelchair users in cinema, lift, parking spaces, walking service indicators, a ramp, and we visit the place and made interviews with the architect, the public ability advisor. This ministry policy they have chosen to hire an accessibility advisor.
We looked at architectural drawings and minutes from different meetings and all the emails they had written to each other during the process.
It was also very important to map this process, not only look at the single solution.
We had an expectation because when we were with the place, we thought, oh, all those solutions, they have been developed because of the — I’ll start from the beginning.
We felt that all the solution of accessibility would be dependent on factors as the construction of the building, the cultural heritage, the architecture and also the economic situation in the process. The municipality, they did not want to pay too much for this building.

But we found out this turned out to be different than we expected, because, of course, all these factors, they played a role, but because the building with all its concrete, it’s quite a big structure and this building creates some challenges and at the same time the building also represents a history. A history of an industrial development and at the same time this building, Nordkraft, is also a landmark in the town.
But when we found out that another factor played a major role, we had named this factor awareness about accessibility. But what is awareness about accessibility or perhaps it’s also Universal Design. Awareness about accessibility, it is about ambitions. The program of the architecture competition, there were no ambitions. Only in relation to the sports club for disabled people, it was written that the sports club should be accessible, but that was the only thing. But when we looked at the process that we have mapped, we could see that there is a shift in focus during this process and we think it’s about in 2008 we can see a shift, because the owner, the municipality, they make a new disability policy in 2008 and the name of this disability policy is a disability policy for the municipality, more than an action. They want more, to do more, and they make this job accessibility advisor and hire an accessibility advisor and also the architect, the architect studio or company, they write a note in 2008 in December where they write that they want to use — they have it in the headline, do not use the word Universal Design anymore, but they write that solutions seeking to be usable for as many users as possible and concurrently bring quality and value to the project.
Awareness to accessibility is also about knowledge. And one aspect of knowledge is the attention to the legal requirement to the building. Regulation in Denmark, we have the building regulation, and if you follow this building regulation, then the building is okay.
At Nordkraft we could see that it was very important how the architects were thinking about this building regulation. Because here we have a ramp and a star and here the accessibility advisor, she pointed out that this ramp was unsafe because there was no guard rail. And the architect here explained that when we made this interview last year, he said that they knew about this requirement but they did not want to follow it. They decided to ignore it to emphasize the architectural intention of this design, because the ramp was seen as a piece of furniture, that people should sit down and also a place for concerts and they wanted — if there was a musician, then the musician could go out and play on his guitar and people should stop and sit down and have a little party or a little concert.
But after a while there was made this big rage because there had been some accidents there. So when we interviewed the architect last year, we asked him what he had learned from this project and he said, it is crucial to focus on accessibility from the beginning in a building process. He is not pleased with this solution because he thinks it spoils the original thought or idea that people should — that it should be possible to sit here on this furniture, and now it’s not any furniture anymore. But he believed if they had focused on the problem from the beginning, then they might have found a very good solution instead of this where they had to put it on after a while.
Awareness about accessibility is also about the requirements, the provisions, but also about the needs. And here, this is in the first phase of the building process, we have chosen a solution that we have evaluated. And here the accessibility advisor pointed out that the handrail — here and also over here and here, at the staircase, it did not meet the requirements of the building regulation since they were not easy to grip and hold on. As a result of this problem of the handrail, a dialogue between the professionals were initiated and then the owner insisted on a redesign of the handrail, not in this phase of the process, but in the other part of the building.
So we can see that the dialogue and the design of the handrail were qualified by the knowledge that the accessibility advisor contributed about the requirements, but not only the requirements, but also what the requirements — what does it mean? Why does it write that it would be nice to hold on?
And we concede that in the other part of the building, that it is much nicer to hold on this than the other. And I tried it when I was there, this one, and it was really a scary feeling to walk down this stair.
But it is also an understanding of the user’s need that is also an aspect of knowledge. And this project, the architect had originally decided to use tactile walking surface indicators made of small elements of — I think you all know this kind. In Denmark we call these small ones, we call them after a specific kind of chocolate, and this photo, all of these small pieces of chocolate, they are still here. I think that everybody has seen a place where half of them are — or some of them, they are missing. But they found out that it would be too expensive. But then it was decided to find another solution. And this new solution was designed and dialogued between all the professionals and also the accessibility advisor and during this process she communicated about the need of the visually impaired persons. So you can say that she defined a performance-based requirement. And at the same time the building aspires to the use of an industrial checker plate — you can see it here, this plate. They painted it orange because orange was one of the colors in the design manual, and the design manual was created based on colors that they found in the building from before.
The location of the outdoor walking surface indicators was changed because of the accessibility advisor’s knowledge about how blind people walk in a building. But it was also placed inside the building. It is not — I do not want every house or building to be full of all this tactile walking surface indicators, but in this building, it’s a good idea because it is really a complex building and also we are — I can see but I can also use this as kind of a guideline for the building. So it plays a role in a wayfinding perspective.
She aimed at a higher accessibility level than the building regulation prescribed and she had also ambition on behalf of the project and at the same time she contributed with knowledge from guidelines and she also showed the team a lot of examples from other buildings. And the architect told us that he did really appreciate all these examples.

>> We have to break.
>> I quickly will say it’s also important dialogue about the level of accessibility and also the solution and I’m not going to say anything about this.
And here I have some as awareness as an approach. We see it as an approach.
>> Thank you very much.


>> So I leave the floor to the audience. Again, some questions.
Here, this way.

>> Thank you very much for the presentation, and also I agree that awareness is very important, but you’ve implied that awareness is important for the designer in the design process and starting from the beginning, but wouldn’t you also say that it’s important for the building departments?
>> Yes, and I will have told a little story about it on one of the slides that I had to jump over, because they had — I think it’s important for the owner and also for the people doing the maintainers of the building, also to be aware of all the people who use this building.
>> So I’m getting at the municipalities themselves that approve the buildings, right?
So if an architect designs a building, before it can be built, it has to be approved by the building department somewhere in the municipality, and the person that approves it and the people that go out and inspect the building should be that last check, because it shouldn’t get built if it doesn’t meet the regulations.
>> We have a system in Denmark and I’m not going to make a big discussion about this, but I think it’s very important that there’s an awareness on all levels in the process, also in the building authorities when they make the — what is it — when they give you the permission to build.
[ Speaker is off microphone ]

>> But they focus on fire in Denmark in many municipalities instead of accessibility.

>> Hello. Thank you for your presentation. And you talked in the presentation about a sports facility and a sports facility for disableds. So obviously there are too. I was wondering what a sports facility for disableds could mean. Would you explain that, please?
>> There are different sports clubs. They use some of the same facilities, but they are two different clubs
>> What is a sports club for disabled?
>> They have bigger bathrooms.
>> And are you only allowed to go there if you’re disabled?
>> No, as I told you, they use the same facilities, but there are — in the program for the competition, there was some extra —
>> So there is one sports club which is not suitable for disableds and the other one is?
>> Because they have their own sports club for handicapped persons.
>> Okay.

>> We are a bit behind schedule, but, I don’t know, is there any other question?
>> Thank you. It was a very interesting presentation.
We are going on this concept on your Universal Design and we have discussions too, and I like the steps that you showed. And I think when we talk about Universal Design, it should be some kind of compromise decision, because up to now, we just had the accessibility adoption and some kind of stigmatization of disabled persons. Society is not accepting this. It is not good for them. Nobody can sit on these steps and have a rest. But we are discussing that this is a way of compromise. That if you want to have attractable, usable and nice, let’s say, aesthetic surrounding, you must have compromise. And to lower your needs, let’s say, from the side of disabled persons to be more accepted by society and society will be more open, I think. So just thoughts that came from me from your presentations.
>> But I want to thank, I think we have learned from this study. We knew it before, but now we could see that it is very important to think about it from the beginning, to be aware from the beginning.

>> But we had noticed a lot of this very simple adaptation and usually it’s not accessible for all society. And now we have this task/purpose that in the widest amount, let’s say, for society to be acceptable. Thank you.

>> I just had a very quick question myself. These accessibility advisors, are they private ones or by the municipality?
>> It’s a job from the municipality.

>> Thank you once more, Sidse.



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