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The impact of AS 1428 on Interior Design for Offices in Perth

In another post I will discuss the new legislation for Building Acts which is due to come into effect early in 2012. One of the most significant impacts of BCA compliance for Office buildings and fit outs is probably AS 1428 The Disability Discrimination Act and so I will discuss briefly how this impacts office spaces and will continue to write on this topic in the future.

Office Design and disabled access to buildings

Disabled access to office buildings increasingly important

Over the past 15 years or so there has been a steady increase in the impact of the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) on planning for offices. At that stage there were not many Designers who had much knowledge of these standards and hence it was not often incorporated into Interior Office Designs.

But things have changed significantly in the last 5 years…..So I will briefly outline how it really impacts your office design

How the DDA affects Interior Office layouts

  • Office buildings need to allow adequate access for people with disabilites like those persons who are in a wheelchair or who have some form of disability.
  • Basic Interior layouts need to allow adequate access for people with disabilites like those persons who are in a wheelchair or some form of disability.
  • This means that circulation spaces throughout the office need to be designed appropriately so wheelchairs are able to freely use all spaces in the office area. This is particularly important for doorway areas which need to be a specific width as well as the space around the doors.
  • Toilet areas are another important aspect of the DDA with the requirement for fully disabled toilets as well as Ambulant toilet spaces the extent of which needs to be assessed in relation to each individual building and office space.
  • Stairways need to be noticeable to visually impaired people with the use of color coding and also tactile indicators on floors.
  • Lifts are also another important aspect of the DDA requirements and need to be designed to enable disabled people to use them effectively.

What does it all mean?

What I have noticed over the years is many companies are not particularly aware of the increasing requirement to comply with this Act within their office space. Although they likely notice how areas have changed in public places and their own building lobbies they seem not to realize that these issues also need to apply within the office space as well. Because to date the Act is not retrospective meaning they do not need to change their existing spaces unless they carry out new works it really has been a case of ‘out of mind’.

Economics always plays a significant factor when planning new office spaces

Of course the fact is economics always plays a significant factor when planning new office spaces or refurbishing existing and the requirements of the DDA often will incur extra costs which to some may seem unjustified and unnecessary. The truth is there are some grey areas as the DDA, BCA and AS do not dove tail seamlessly together and there is no actual law against non compliance with the DDA. It really comes into effect if a non compliance issue is taken to court by someone and so this leaves the loophole for many companies to not worry about full compliance.

So why bother to comply you might ask?

Well the issue is that all new fit out works as well as building works of course require a building licence from local government and failure to obtain one will normally prevent contractors from commencing works on site. The conditions of issue of a building licence will require the works to comply with the BCA which in turn requires compliance with the DDA and that is where it all begins. The truth is however that compliance with the DDA is rather like insurance because there is no actual law against non compliance and is really only an issue if a person with disabilities decides to sue based on the fact that the building or office space does not allow adequate access for them…hence discrimination.
But as I said there are quite a few grey areas between the various Acts and in a recent meeting I had with Perth City Council they talked about the Premises Act which is of most significance the building owners and their responsibilities and requirements to provide suitably accessible buildings.

So what should companies do?

  • For companies with existing office space they could arrange for an audit to be carried out on their current space to ascertain the level of compliance and in turn arrange for plans to be created on how compliance can be achieved.
  • For companies looking at new space the requirement for a building licence will ensure eventually the DDA is complied with to the extent required to approve the work. New laws will also make occupation certificates mandatory before occupation.
  • It is  highly recommended that building owners and managers also seek an audit on the level of compliance with the DDA and appropriate measures employed to bring buildings up to standard as well as becoming more aware of their responsibilities and requirements as owners and landlords.
  • In short these rules and regulations are not going to go away and it is predicted eventually they will be mandatory and possibly even retrospective and so it is well worth taking measures now so effective planning can be implemented for both financial and structural reasons.

This is an open resource so please feel free to leave a comment if you have any information about this post.

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