Inclusive Design - the benefits of stitching it in early

The Core building at Eden Project

Jerry Tate, Senior Architect, Grimshaw

An aerial view of Eden Project's core building, a leading example of inclusive design


Describing the process

The focus from Grimshaw’s perspective was to achieve a level of design, which exceeded Part M requirements and focused on positive designs.

The positive focus was achieved by a series of workshops with Eden Project and the Sensory Trust. These workshops gave Grimshaw the opportunity to present thoughts and ideas to both parties and obtain feedback in advance. This was a valuable exercise as it also made us consider aspects in the design we'd not previously thought of. An example of this was the need to design a mother and baby change facility which was accessible for all, i.e. wheelchair users.

The architects normally carry out an access audit as part of the design process, however, an independent access audit was also carried out by the client.

An access statement was produced, which is a formal requirement of part B of Building Regulations. This was made easier by the fact that an access audit had already been carried out by the Eden Project.

Case studies

Refuges for disabled people

There was an ambition of the Eden Project and the Sensory Trust to eliminate refuges for disabled people, and instead make exits accessible for all. The fact that the Core is a three-storey building makes this a significant challenge. The initial design provided 3 refuges for disabled people. The final design has reduced this to one. All public exits lead to graded exits with careful consideration to eliminate access barriers.

Oversized sinks in accessible toilets

Grimshaw received feedback from both the Eden Project and the Sensory Trust to the effect that many wheelchair users disliked the standard 400mm sinks, generally found in accessible toilets. The reason for this is because they are small and cause a large splash back. It was suggested that 500mm sinks (which are the usual size of sinks found in many toilets, including in most houses) be used.

We were concerned that attempting to fit 500mm sinks into these toilets would not leave a sufficient turning area for wheelchairs users. The design of the toilets was examined and had to be altered by 150mm to accommodate these sinks. Had this issue not been raised so early in the design process, this revised design would not have been achieved.

Finishes/colour strategy

An architect always designs the finishes in the building to fit with the theme/concept used in the building. We were concerned that we would have to use bright colours to supply visual contrast for visually impaired visitors and that the use of such colours would diminish the concept of the building.

After careful consideration it was decided by the Eden Project and Grimshaw to colour the rooms and intuitive circulation on a theme. The seasons were used as a basis for this theme.

The end result is four main themes as follows:

Winter – Blue
Spring – Green
Summer – Yellow
Autumn – Orange

Contrasting extremes of these colours have been used in the finishes to the building, hence creating enough colour contrast to be clear for visually impaired users. The flooring, which is marmoleum, will follow the same themes. Thus the strategy of the building has remained intact whilst providing relevant design for visually impaired users.

To sum up

The concept of the early consultation can help eliminate unnecessary costs, as it is common practice for inclusive design to be considered very late in the process. This results in significant changes having to be made and the cost of this being borne by client, contractor or both.

The result of early discussions with all the team has shown that a building can be designed with an inclusive approach in mind.

It is also important that the end users are given the opportunity to feed back to the team. Their comments can give architects the opportunity to eliminate design issues, in both current and future construction projects.

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