Construction firms and their clients are reported to be divided on whether to pause work on their projects as concerns and criticism increase around safety and social distancing
But even on a building site, it’s possible to have a partial shutdown. Efforts can be made to take a break from the tasks which demand a physical presence and which involve more than one worker. Instead, employers can identify the individual jobs which can continue, and those which can be completed remotely.
Whatever the project and whatever the nature of the building it must meet certain design standards and the best time to review whether it does that is before the work has been completed, rather than when the structure and all its facilities are in place.
The principles apply to any development from a new apartment block to an office complex, a sports stadium to a retail and leisure centre, theatres and cinemas, historic buildings including their grounds, private and public car parks and public realm. The design should be checked in detail before it is – literally in some cases – set in stone because the costs of remedial work can quickly become exorbitant.
In our case that work consists of a design appraisal. With a bit of foresight that shutdown scenario can also create the opportunity to change a working environment. By acting sooner rather than later and by involving an accessibility consultant in the discussion with your architects and designers, you can improve access to and around your premises in readiness for a return to normal. Businesses can begin that recovery even when their doors are still closed.
There is growing awareness among businesses of the opportunities to still be productive when many activities are at a standstill – remote training sessions for staff working from home, updating marketing materials in readiness to raise profile or contacting clients to provide reassurance ahead of a return to normality.
Property, indoors and outdoors, should be included in your thinking, regardless of your business sector.
The evidence of the weekend which preceded the lockdown, with crowds flocking to country and coast, highlighted the huge appetite among people to get out and about, and that can only be increased by time spent in isolation. That should send a message to businesses about what to expect once the restrictions are eased.
Meeting needs remotely
For many of our services, a site visit is essential but a design appraisal is different. We can meet your needs remotely, walk through the designs on paper without visiting the premises and advise whether the proposed work will create accessibility issues, whether the drawings indicate that you will be able to achieve inclusive design throughout the construction process.
In the past we’ve found that plans for an education centre didn’t include an accessible loo, and in another case that the emergency egress was too narrow for wheelchair users. We can make sure a proposed ramp has the appropriate gradient, and that the top and bottom are free from obstructions.
We can also help you to make the most of your downtime by helping you examine the extent to which accessibility features in your strategic planning and showing you how to think at a higher level about how you are going to provide your services. You might need a template or a check-list of guidelines that cover what you need now and what sort of modifications you might require in the future. It would cover buildings and people, because attitude and awareness are vital, and it would promote forward-thinking, helping to future-proof your business as legislation and facilities change.
These are just some of the issues that should be addressed by any business, not just to comply with the provisions of the Equality Act but also to make premises, products and services accessible to as wide a customer base as possible. The current situation provides the perfect opportunity to act while sites are idle, and to prepare existing and new projects for the contractors to get to work as soon as you are able to let them into your property rather than face further delays.
If you need help improving the accessibility of your organisation or developing your skills then please get in touch and check out our website www.aboutaccess.co.uk.
LinkedIn: Ian Streets