Residential access standards

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.

Tower Court wins at the Housing Design Awards

COMPLETED AWARD

Image: Housing Design Awards Project Winner 2017

Withernay Projects worked with Adam Khan Architects and Muf Architecture/Art and their team on proposals for Tower Court, which was presented with a Housing Design Project Award by Ben Derbyshire of RIBA in July 2017.

Four new buildings will replace the demolished 1950s blocks, providing new homes for returning and new residents adjacent to Clapton Common in London.

The need to design for the Haredi community, as well as other future and returning residents resulted in several features that may benefit all residents and provide a more accessible environment. These include:

  • Generously sized entrance lobbies with space to store children’s buggies and prams;
  • Optimised daylighting of lobbies and cores (to avoid the need for electrical light when observing Shabbat); and
  • An external environment that is focused on families with young children and socialising / entertaining.

Tower Court is scheduled for completion in early 2019.

Availability, adaptability and awareness

Brochure cover for CIH Health and Housing Conference 2016

Brochure cover for CIH Health and Housing Conference 2016

On being asked to talk at the CIH Health and Housing Conference 2016 I was delighted: it will be my first visit to Northern Ireland, although of course I’ll be getting to know the conference venue and other attendees rather then exploring Belfast.

Another reason for delight is the scope of the programme and delegates: it’s not access people talking to other access people but a broad spectrum of people who are determined to make housing better for everyone, including those with no home.

Northern Ireland’s Technical Booklet R and England’s Approved Document M make for an interesting game of spot the difference for someone who does what I do. However the guidance about meeting regulations in any country, no matter how overly detailed or lacking are simply recognized, or ‘approved’, solutions for providing a basic level of safety, comfort and access. The principles of inclusive design are much more interesting and easier to relate to.

So how do we design an inclusive home? Well we can’t. That’s to say it is not feasible to build one type of home with features that fit everyone’s possible needs. The key is choice, coupled with availability, adaptability and awareness and these are the three themes of my talk.

 

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 london.gov.uk 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 london.gov.uk.

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

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 gov.uk. 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 gov.uk.

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 gov.uk

There's a Wocket in my Pocket

Guests at the Pocket event at the Swiss Church in Covent Garden

Guests at the Pocket event at the Swiss Church in Covent Garden

Innovative residential developer Pocket has something new up its sleeve that was revealed at an event last Thursday in London. The Swiss Church in London's Covent Garden was a great choice of venue, being just around the corner from Pocket's offices in Floral Street, and having a barrel vault that design director Russ likened to the Pocket philosophy in its efficient and attractive design.

Pocket's one-bedroom compact flats have proved hugely popular with their owners who might otherwise be priced out of owning their own home in London. The company is building on this success with the two bedroom, two person concept and this event presented the ideas of nineteen architectural practices about how this could be done.

The London Housing SPG of November 2012 sets out the minimum required space for dwellings of different sizes in London, but standard 4.11 does not mention two bedroom, two person units. Pocket has established that that there is a market for this type of unit that includes joint buyers who are not a couple and single parents.

Thank you, Pocket, for an interesting and very social event. There were no wockets in attendance that I noticed. Perhaps they were hiding with the wosset in the closet of one of the apartment models?

Russ Edwards of Pocket and Peter Murray prepare to present architects with commendation awards.

Russ Edwards of Pocket and Peter Murray prepare to present architects with commendation awards.

Moo!

A discrepancy in the stated dimensions for clear opening widths (COWs) in current regulatory guidance and standards for residential developments could be resolved by the draft Approved Document M. Responses to the consultation draft to be made by November 7th, 2014 and all the information is available on the Department for Communities and Local Government site here.

The images below are extracted from my recent talk at the National Register of Access Consultants Autumn Conference and explain my delight at reading part of the draft: at last the oddity about clear opening widths is resolved!

The first slide shows the required minimum clear opening widths for doors plotted against the width of an indirect approach in Table 4 of the current Approved Document, . At the top of the slide is a blue cow.

The first slide shows the required minimum clear opening widths for doors plotted against the width of an indirect approach in Table 4 of the current Approved Document, . At the top of the slide is a blue cow.

Slide 2: The Wheelchair Housing Design Guide states a minimum clear opening width of 775mm for an internal door, and a minimum approach width of 1200mm when any door approached from it is not entered head-on. (The text and diagram for this requirement contradict each other in the document). The graph shows the Part M, table 4 line and a single cross for the Wheelchair Housing Design Guide requirement. A blue and pink cow are at the top of the page.

Slide 2: The Wheelchair Housing Design Guide states a minimum clear opening width of 775mm for an internal door, and a minimum approach width of 1200mm when any door approached from it is not entered head-on. (The text and diagram for this requirement contradict each other in the document). The graph shows the Part M, table 4 line and a single cross for the Wheelchair Housing Design Guide requirement. A blue and pink cow are at the top of the page.

This graph shows why I've always suspected that the dimensions stated in the Lifetime Homes standards are an error. The blue and pink cows at the top of the page are present again, joined by an orange cow, which is upside-down. The orange line added to the graph shows that the relationship between clear opening width and approach is consistent with Approved Document M for wider approaches, but when the approach is less than 1050mm wide the required clear opening width is 900mm, arguably showing that this width is excessive.

This graph shows why I've always suspected that the dimensions stated in the Lifetime Homes standards are an error. The blue and pink cows at the top of the page are present again, joined by an orange cow, which is upside-down. The orange line added to the graph shows that the relationship between clear opening width and approach is consistent with Approved Document M for wider approaches, but when the approach is less than 1050mm wide the required clear opening width is 900mm, arguably showing that this width is excessive.

The blue cow now has a green friend representing the dimensions for clear opening widths in Category 2 of the draft Approved Document, which is largely based on the Lifetime Homes standards. The clause in the draft states two dimensions: a minimum clear opening width of 800mm for indirect approaches of between 800mm and 1050mm wide, and 775mm minimum for an approach wider than 1050mm.

The blue cow now has a green friend representing the dimensions for clear opening widths in Category 2 of the draft Approved Document, which is largely based on the Lifetime Homes standards. The clause in the draft states two dimensions: a minimum clear opening width of 800mm for indirect approaches of between 800mm and 1050mm wide, and 775mm minimum for an approach wider than 1050mm.

The pink cow returns with a cross on the graph to represent the proposed clear opening width and approach specified in Category 3 of the Draft Approved Document, which is based on the requirements of the Wheelchair Housing Design Guide. A minimum clear opening width of 850mm with a minimum approach width of 1200mm, regardless of the direction of approach.

The pink cow returns with a cross on the graph to represent the proposed clear opening width and approach specified in Category 3 of the Draft Approved Document, which is based on the requirements of the Wheelchair Housing Design Guide. A minimum clear opening width of 850mm with a minimum approach width of 1200mm, regardless of the direction of approach.

Unfortunately the method of measuring the clear opening widths for doors in the draft Approved Document is the same as it is in the current document, and therefore different to the method stated in The Approved Document for buildings other than dwellings, Lifetime Homes standards and the Wheelchair Housing Design Guide. I'm hoping that this will be changed before publication. 

This post is about just one aspect of the changes proposed to the regulations for dwellings. There is a lot of material to read through and comment on. Follow this link to see the documents and scroll down for a link to the consultation survey.

Cats and cows

Two of the cows that will feature during the talk.

Two of the cows that will feature during the talk.

The subject of tomorrow's talk at the NRAC (National Register of Access Consultants) Autumn Conference is Accessible Housing: Towards Real Choice. I'll be talking about how the standards and regulations about the design of accessible housing have developed during the last decade and why they're about to change again.

Exactly how they change is up to you: The consultation documents are available here on the gov.uk site, and responses need to be submitted by November 7th 2014. There's a lot to read so get cracking!

The pink and blue cows will help to explain some of the detail of the draft Approved Document M at tomorrow's talk, along with some cats.

Other speakers include my ex-colleague Stuart Schlindwein-Robinson who will present the work being done on accessible hotels, and VocalEyes, who provide audio-description for theatre productions.