Architecture & Access specialist access consulting services are streamlining the design and building process, saving on project costs, preventing hold-ups during construction, and providing welcome assurance to busy designers and builders.
Accessibility is now understood to be a critical area of technical knowledge within building design and construction yet, too often, buildings are still failing to meet all the requirements of access.
The consequences of this can be costly redesign and rectification, incorrect certification of non-compliances exposing owners, builders, and designers to risk, and sadly more frustrating barriers for people with disability.
To assist building professionals to meet their obligations to deliver access, more and more are taking advantage of the specialist knowledge and skills of access consultants, engaging them to monitor and advise on accessibility across all the parts of a building – from design through to construction.
What problems can be avoided?
Some of the most common problems that are carried through to construction when an access consultant is not engaged, include:
- Ramps constructed too steep, or with setout not allowing enough clearance between handrails/kerbrails or at landings
- Stairs and handrails with setout or design issues
- Kerb ramp alignment and or lengths incorrect
- Doors set-out without the necessary door circulation space
- Sanitary fittings and fixtures set-out too far or too close to side walls, or too high or low.
- Light switches, proximity-card readers, and other controls set-out too close to internal corners
- Braille and Tactile signage installed in incorrect locations
- Shop and office fit-outs impeding access.
Apart from the delay and costs involved in rectification, non-compliant construction and installation makes life hard for people with disability and their carers.
Who is at fault when any requirements for access are not met?
According to the law, building certifiers, developers, designers, builders and subcontractors all have responsibilities for ensuring access to buildings and facilities for people with disability.
Access consultants can assist by taking responsibility for the details that are covered by the building code and relevant standards affecting access.
What are the consequences of failing to deliver on access?
Failing to deliver on access is a serious matter, and may mean:
- Hold-ups to construction – Details for accessibility should be resolved through the design process, but sometimes detail may be lacking or plans change. Resolving design issues, or conflicts between the design and the schedule, results in costly delays
- Delays in the issuing of certificates of compliance – Completed building and facilities must meet the standards of the building code before certificates of compliance and occupancy can be granted
- Rectification – Disturbing finished surfaces and structure to rectify mistakes is an expensive and unwelcome exercise. Engaging a specialist access consultant during construction can catch and rectify problems before the building is completed, eliminating the need for finished surfaces needing to be disturbed to rectify mistakes
- People responsible for the delivery of access may be subject to complaints, litigation and cost recovery for rectification. Engaging an access consultant mitigates this risk.
An access report, or compliance statement issued by Architecture & Access consultants gives certainty and assurance to the designer, builder, those issuing certificates of compliance and completion, and ultimately the building owner, that all requirements of accessibility for people with disability have been met in the completed project.
Knowing with certainty that access compliance is achieved is the best protection against potential complaints and legal action.
What does an access consultant actually do?
Access consultants have expert knowledge of the National Construction Code (NCC/BCA), the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010, the range of Australian Standards relating to access, and federal and state-based anti-discrimination laws.
Access consultants are also experienced in dealing with a wide range of building types and associated issues at the design stage and onsite.
Within their work, access consultants will consider the functional needs of people with various types of disability and can advise on solutions beyond compliance, to achieve the best possible end-use for people.
- Over the course of a building project, an access consultant can provide:
- Design and documentation reviews
- Inspections of existing buildings planned to be refurbished, to clearly identify affected parts that are required, or not required, to be upgraded under the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010
- Inspection of the site when frames are up, and plumbing and electrical are roughed in, to identify any potential problems early
- Briefing of contractors, such as civil contractors, plumbers and electricians, to make sure that access requirements are noted and understood
- Inspection of site at any point up to completion to consult on issues as they arise
- Advice on alternative solutions to access problems that present difficulty complying with the standards
- Inspection at practical completion to provide an access compliance statement
How much does access consulting cost?
The fees for access consulting are typically very low in terms of proportion of the project budget, and far cheaper than delaying construction for plans to be redrawn, or rectifying completed building works.
For more information on the access consulting services, or to discuss your project, please contact Architecture & Access on 1300 715 866.