Inclusive Design: Access to and Use of Buildings

If designs do not follow the Approved Document M design guidance.      

Access Strategy

The approved document guidance does not necessarily need a written Access strategy. But it may be useful with the building control application.

You must communicate with the Building Control team on how you will proceed. This must take into account accessibility needs and compliance with the Approved Document M

All applications will be looked at on a case by case basis as each situation will be different. It is an opportunity for designers to offer reasoned arguments that may vary on a project by project basis. You can still achieve the functional requirements of Approved Document M.

Designers and developers working outside the requirements should show in their application through evidence-based that either:

  • The design proposed is at least equal to the generic solutions of Approved Document M
  • The circumstances of an existing building do not allow the full application of the provisions within ADM
  • Full accessibility is unreasonable within the individual circumstances of the building

The duty is always on the applicant to justify to the Building Control Section any circumstances that prevent full access.

The Access Strategy proves that effort has been made to make an inclusive environment. It is not a tool to justify lower standards of access for reasons such as design choices.

Material change of use

Approved Document M applies to new buildings and existing non-domestic buildings. For example, extensions or change of use.

Any alterations for a public use building (such as a hotel or shop) must meet M1 accessibility.

Which means the design of Building works should bring the building up to new build standards for disabled access. 

Equality Act 2010 and its relationship with the Building Regulations

It is for you to consider any duties that may apply to yourself under the Equality Act 2010. You must determine how your duties under that legislation are to be met. If structural and building design matters are required, the design should be with other inclusive design documents. This includes the requirement of the Building Regulations Approved Document M 2015 and be detailed on any deposited plans.

If the design feature agrees with the objectives and provisions of Approved Document M, then you will not have to make adjustments. This includes features that were constructed ten years or less.

If a feature of the building does not meet the requirements will not be offered an exemption. If challenged, you may need to make adjustments before ten years.

Material alteration – What it is and when it applies 

An alteration is material for these Regulations if the work, or any part of it, would at any stage result:

a. in a building, controlled service or fitting not complying with a requirement where previously it did

b. in a building or controlled service or fitting, which before the work commenced did not comply with a relevant requirement, being more unsatisfactory with such a requirement

When an alteration of a non-domestic building is a material alteration, the work itself must follow M1 of the Building Regulations. This means that alterations to features such as entrances or arrangements must result in features that follow M1.

This also applies to new features. Reasonable provision must also be made for people to gain access to and to use new or altered sanitary conveniences.

The building as a whole, including access from the boundary and on-site car parking, must be non-less complaint with Requirement M1 following a material alteration of a building.

In simple terms, this means if something is altered on an existing building, or added to an existing building that is covered by the Accessibility requirements within the Building Regulations.

These new elements should be designed and installed to meet the current standard of accessibility requirements. So ensuring the building overall after the works are completed, is no less accessible than when the works began.