Hvorfor byggenæringen bør endre sitt syn på inkludering
Inkluderende design har vært trenden i byggebransjen en stund nå. Men hva er egentlig inkluderende design? Hva vil det si å behandle alle beboere i en evakueringssituasjon likt? Er det bare å bygge ramper, dører og fortau, som er designet for å imøtekomme behovet til rullestolbrukere? Eller er det mer å hente her, for eksempel innenfor brannsikkerhet?
What is Inclusive Design?
Inclusive design, whether related to fire safety or not, should provide all various users of the space with the same exact perceived experience, without subjecting them to any situation that can be considered humiliating or that affects their self-respect. For example, a wheelchair user would need to rely on another person to assist them with using the stairway chair in case of a fire evacuation. That same person could use the evacuation lift effectively on their own and thus have the same dignity as any other user put in the same situation. Inclusive design should not be restricted to the design stage, as it extends into the management and occupation of the building as well.
Various Types of Disabilities
Visible physical disabilities are merely the tip of the iceberg of the types of disabilities that a designer would need to consider. Though fire engineers mostly provide solutions for people with impaired mobility, children and elderly can easily also fall into the same category. Then, we’d also have those who have a temporary disability, a broken leg for example, or pregnancy. Where it gets tricky is when the designer needs to consider those with impaired cognitive or mental abilities. A public announcement sound system with a high volume could be enough to trigger someone with specific cases of autism or ADHD. Strobing escape lights could trigger seizures in people with epilepsy, and so on and so forth. A real inclusive design is what considers all of those elements.
A major change is needed on how the construction industry views inclusivity. Inclusivity in fire safety has always been, and somehow still is, following a very simplified approach. Standards and legislations provide the basics or the minimum levels, which are most of the time not enough. In the UK, the architect begins by following the requirements of Approved Document M (Access and use of buildings) which specifies the minimum door widths, slope and specifications of ramps, and turning radii for wheelchairs. The fire engineer then takes over by using Approved Document B (Fire safety) which in turn will provide basic details. It is not until the fire engineers employs a non-prescriptive performance-based approach for the inclusive design aspect of things to commence. They can then refer to BS 9999:2017 (Code of practice for fire safety in the design) for a semi-prescriptive approach, or resort to other British standards for a full-on engineered approach. BS 9991:2015 (Fire safety in the design, management and use of residential buildings), BS 7974:2019 (Application of fire safety engineering principles to the design of buildings), BS 5839-1:2017 (Fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings. Code of practice for design, installation, commissioning, and maintenance of systems in non-domestic premises) are examples of those. The further the fire engineer is willing to take his design to achieve a state of real inclusivity, the endless the possibilities become.
As per the above, we can conclude that inclusive design is materialized by going above and beyond to make sure that the users are not underprivileged due to a certain type of disability, be it cognitive or physical, and that they can experience the same thing (including safe escape in case of a fire) while maintaining their dignity and self-respect. Once the fire engineer puts that as a goal and incorporates every detail into the early design phases, the project is bound to offer inclusivity, at its best.