A simple guide for commercial buildings
When you’re considering taking on a commercial building project, you’ll need to understand your obligations to ensure that the property is accessible to everyone.
Whilst the National Construction Code has different requirements for various classes of buildings, this article focuses on large commercial sheds, factories and warehouses as that’s our specialty.
What the National Construction Code does and doesn’t cover
The NCC is mainly focused on the physical layout, access, services and construction of a building and does not cover wayfinding information, signage, fixtures or particular management policies that make a building more accessible.
These types of factors are covered in Australia by discrimination law, health and safety laws and Australian Standards. A truly accessible building should be designed by drawing on all these recommendations, as well as ensuring ongoing management and operational factors are compliant with disability and anti-discrimination guidelines.
Why design for disability?
Besides the obvious legal requirements, good access benefits a much wider range of people than those who fall under the typical definition of disability.
A worker with a temporary injury or anyone delivering or picking up goods can also benefit from good access to buildings.
Whilst the broad definition of disability includes anyone who is blind or has low vision, is hearing impaired, has intellectual disabilities or has a physical impairment, good design transcends ability and will ensure your building is easily and efficiently accessible to everyone.
Designing for mobility
The overall design of your commercial building should take different types of mobility into account. The obvious points to consider include using ramps with handrails instead of (or in addition to) stairs, providing lifts for multi-storey buildings, and ensuring adequate accessible parking is available.
In your car park or warehouse space, features such as tactile ground surface indicators help vision-impaired people get more information about their environment, such as when surfaces change or where paths meet roads.
The main performance requirements laid out in the building code include:
- Access for people with a disability
- Safe movement within the building
- Exits and path of travel to exits
- Lift access and evacuation lifts
- Car parking
- Communication systems for hearing impaired people
- Hygiene facilities (ie: bathrooms)
Things to consider
When designing your commercial building, you’ll first need to understand which class of building your shed falls under. This will inform further decision making around the extent of access required. Then, consider how many people will typically occupy the building – this will indicate the number and type of accessible bathrooms.
If you take a broader view of accessibility, you’ll find that good, practical design advice will often result in a structure that is ideal for both able-bodied and disabled people.
For example, a building that sits flush with ground level without unnecessary steps or ramps to access it. This makes for a better-designed structure that helps workers and visitors move about more efficiently – no matter their ability level.
Section D of the NCC Volume 1 covers access and egress requirements for buildings, and Section E3, F2 and H2 cover specific requirements for lifts and bathrooms.