Information on Access to and Use of Buildings

Inclusive Design - Access to and Use of Buildings

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

Access Strategy

Not following the Approved Document guidance does not necessarily require provision of a written Access strategy to accompany a building control application, though it may be useful and the best approach in some circumstances. Never the less it is important that applicants clearly communicate to the Building Control team their chosen approach to meeting the accessibility needs of the end users of the building, demonstrating compliance with the functional requirements of 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, yet still achieve the functional requirements of Approved Document M.

Designers and developers working outside the deemed to satisfy route should demonstrate in their application through reasoned and evidence based argument that either

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

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

To summarise in simple terms, it is intended that the use of an Access Strategy is one way of demonstrating that every effort has been made to provide an inclusive environment and that the applicant or agent is not purely using it as a tool to justify lower standards of access provision for reasons such as an applicants or agents non-compliant design choices/preferences.  

When a Building Use is changed how is this viewed in terms of disabled access

Material change of use

The requirements of Approved Document M in full or part apply not only to new buildings but to existing non-domestic buildings which are undergoing extension, alteration or a change of use. For the purposes of application of Part M of the Building Regulations. If an existing building undergoes a material change of use such that part or all of the building changes to use as a hotel or boarding house, an institution, a public building or a shop. Such work if any shall be carried out as is necessary to ensure that that part itself complies with M1 (access and use) and any sanitary conveniences provided in, or in connection with that part comply with requirement M1. Which technically 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 the applicant to consider any duties that may apply to them under the Equality Act 2010 and determine how their duties under that legislation are to be met. If structural and building related design matters are required to meet that duty, the design should consider amongst other inclusive design documents, the requirement of the Building Regulations Approved Document M 2015 and be detailed on any deposited plans.

The regulations provide that, if a physical feature accords with the relevant objectives, design considerations and provisions of whichever edition of Approved Document M was in force in relation to the construction of those features, the service provider will not have to make adjustments to that feature if ten years or less has passed since it was constructed or installed. By implication, a physical feature of a building which does not so accord will not benefit from the protection offered by the exemption and, if challenged, the service provider may need to consider making reasonable adjustments to that feature before the period of ten years has elapsed.

Material alteration – What is it and when will this apply

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

a. in a building or controlled service or fitting not complying with a relevant 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 in relation to such a requirement

Where an alteration of a non-domestic building is a material alteration, the work itself must comply, where relevant, with Requirement M1 of the Building Regulations. This means that alterations to features relevant to the compliance of a building with Part M, such as entrances or arrangements for people to get from one level to another within the building must result in features that comply with Requirement 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 a 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. Therefore ensuring the building overall after the works is completed, is no less accessible than when the works began.  

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