A guide to help specifiers come to terms with the Disability Discrimination Act, the latest flooring standards, and how regulations governing access are getting a revamp – which may take in all new homes.
Hope hands out homework
The Building Regulations team at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister must be among the hardest-working civil servants in government. They have been working on so many amendments to Building Regulations recently, specifiers could be forgiven for not keeping up.

A review of Part M, governing access to buildings, is next on the agenda – and this only six months after the last amendments were published. The Building Regulations minister Phil Hope says that the new standards could be in place in two years, once a public consultation and regulatory impact have been carried out.

Hope offered a glimpse of the changes to come in a select committee last month. He said that existing regulations could be toughened by incorporating the Lifetime Homes standard into Part M. The standards are designed to ensure that all new or converted houses and flats are flexible enough to cater for the changing needs of inhabitants.

The inclusion of Lifetime Homes standards could lead to the following in Part M:

  • Stairs designed to take stairlifts at a later stage
  • Ground-floor bedroom and toilet
  • Ground-floor space for installation of a shower.

The government says the review will also determine whether the Lifetime Standards need to be updated to reflect the recommendations of British Standard BS 8300. At the moment Lifetime Standards do not incorporate the additional space requirements necessary for occupation by wheelchair users.

Help with meeting access rules
The Centre for Accessible Environments and Riba Enterprises have published a new edition of Designing for Accessibility. The guidance covers Part M and British Standard BS 8300:2001 Design of Buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people. It should also help specifiers meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act, which will come into force in October 2004. The guide has a section on specifying surfaces correctly, which the CAE says will aid orientation, acoustic conditions, ease of passage for wheelchairs and buggies, and safety.

  • Surfaces should be firm and non-directional to allow easy passage for wheelchair users.

  • Carpet should be of shallow dense pile. Avoid coir matting, deep pile or excessively grooved carpet.

  • Junctions between different flooring materials should be carefully detailed so as not to create an obstacle to wheelchair users or a tripping hazard for people with mobility or visual impairment.

  • Textured floors can warn of hazards or impart directional information.

  • Floor surfaces should be slip-resistant. This is of particular importance to people who use walking aids such as sticks or crutches, and to old people.

  • Floor areas that may become wet – for example, just inside the entrance to covered shopping malls – should not be of a type that becomes slippery. Entrance mats should be considered.

  • Glossy floors cause reflection and glare, which can create difficulties for people with visual impairments. They can also give the illusion of being wet and slippery even if they are not, which may inhibit people with mobility impairments.

  • Avoid types of floors that become hazardous when recently washed.

  • Bright, boldly patterned flooring should also be avoided as it can create a confusing impression for people with impaired sight.

    Copies are available from RIBA Bookshops www.ribabookshops.com

    Recent flooring standards

    BS 7932:2003
    Determination of the unpolished and polished pendulum test value of surfacing units This British Standard describes a test method for determining the unpolished and the polished pendulum test value of surfacing units for pedestrian or traffic purposes, using a flat-bed polishing machine in conjunction with pendulum test equipment. Price £44, BSI subscribing members £22 BS 8000-9:2003
    Workmanship on building sites. Cementitious levelling screeds and wearing screeds. Code of practice BS 8000-9 gives recommendations on laying cementitious levelling screeds and wearing screeds. This standard replaces BS 8000-9:1999 which is now withdrawn. The old edition has been updated to include changes in terminology that reflect changes in European Standards. Material specifications have also been updated and further checking procedures have been introduced. Price: £56, BSI Subscribing members £28 BS 8425:2003
    Code of practice for installation f laminate floor coverings This British Standard gives recommendations for the installation of laminate floor coverings in new or existing buildings. Generally, laminate floor coverings are installed as floating floors but, in some applications, they can be integrally glued to the sub-floor. This British Standard only details suitable methods for floating floor installation and advises on the selection of materials required for their implementation. Price: £56, BSI Subscribing members £28
  • For a more complete listing, please visit www.bsi-global.com/bsonline