Approved Document M

Building Regulations Part M

Image: Logo of the Construction Industry Council

Image: Logo of the Construction Industry Council

Three years after the revision of Part M of the Building Regulations and the accompanying changes to the National Planning Policy Framework, I still have conversations with architects and developers about the differences between M4(2) and M4(3). Once they’ve grasped that, more conversation is needed about M4(3) 2(a) and M4(3) 2(b). More worrying is that I am still reading planning conditions that refer to Lifetime Homes standards and wheelchair users’ housing for new developments in London boroughs.

The paragraph above is from a recently published post I wrote for the Construction Industry Council’s blog about residential access standards, following Jane Simpson’s article on a similar subject.

Is the guidance about the Optional Categories in Approved Document M Volume 1 improving accessible housing provision in England? Should Optional Category 2 be the minimum standard required for new homes? Read more here, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

New London SPG

Covers of Central Activities Zone and Housing supplementary planning guidance documents.

Covers of Central Activities Zone and Housing supplementary planning guidance documents.

New editions of two London Plan supplementary planning guidance documents are published today and are available on the site.

The Housing SPG incorporates guidance on the application of the new Housing Standards, which include Volume 1 of Approved Document M that came into effect on October 1, 2015 and reference to the Nationally Described Space Standard. Link to Housing SPG on

The Central Activities Zone includes guidance about inclusive design of hospitality, attractions, housing and commercial buildings in central London. Link to CAZ SPG on

2016 Amendments to Approved Document M, Volume 1

Part of cover of amendments to Approved Document M, Volume 1.

Part of cover of amendments to Approved Document M, Volume 1.

A new edition of Approved Document M, Volume 1 was published on March 1st 2016 and is available to download from The amendments came into force on the same date in respect of building notices given, full plans deposited or initial notices given on or after that date.

The changes are relatively minor, and are the same as the list of amendments that was sent out with hard copies to those who bought them. The changes document can be downloaded from this link on

One of the changes is the addition of this note to Diagram 3.8 (kitchens in M4(3) units):
"Unit length should be measured through mid-line of the worktop, not the front or rear edge."

Update: A frequently asked questions about Approved Document M document (published 21.03.16) are available to download from

Revolting doors

Revolving door in the city of London

Revolving door in the city of London

The sign on the side-hinged door says 'Closed - Please use revolving door', but many people cannot use revolving doors. This is why Approved Document M states that:

Revolving doors are not considered accessible. They create particular difficulties, and risk of injury, for people with visual impairment or mobility problems and for parents with children and/or pushchairs.
— Approved Document M - Access to and use of buildings

For this reason, revolving doors are only permitted by Part M if an additional, accessible, door is provided alongside them. This door should be available at all times that the revolving door is in use, but all too often they are locked and have an 'out of order' sign directing people to use the revolving door.

This leaves all of the people mentioned above, and people with claustrophobia or cognitive impairment, waiting outside trying to get the attention of someone inside for assistance, making an accessible-but-not-inclusive entrance into an inaccessible inconvenience that segregates people by ability.

Policy 7.2 of The London Plan (2015) states: "The Mayor will require all new development in London to achieve the highest standards of accessible and inclusive design and supports the principles of inclusive design." At least one London borough supports this policy by not permitting any revolving doors but why not all of them?

Episode 93 of American radio podcast 99% Invisible highlights another issue with revolving doors in episode 93, available here. According to the programme, the revolving door was first sold on the idea that it avoided the 'After you,' 'No, please, after you...' conversations that happen with regular doors, although it was based on a previous door that was designed to prevent draughts and energy loss. 

The focus of the 99% Invisible programme is investigations by students of MIT and Andrew Shea into how many people use revolving doors when given a choice between them and conventional doors, and how this proportion can be increased with simple signs that highlight the energy saved by using the revolving doors, but also makes comments about ease of use.

Both studies (one in Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the other at Columbia University) revealed that approximately 75% of people use the conventional door when no sign about energy saving is present, perhaps because a conventional door is simpler, quicker and easier to use.

Saving energy and improving the efficiency of buildings is key to creating sustainable developments, but alternatives to revolving doors are available, and should always be used because inclusive design is also essential.

'Revolting doors' is not a typo - it was what an architect I worked called them once I'd convinced him to omit them from the project we were working on.