The guidance on handrail dimensions in BS 8300 differs from that in AD M. Is the BS guidance an acceptable alternative?

The guidance that follows is based on consideration of Amendment 1:2005 to BS 8300:2001 (see BS 8300:2001). A handrail should be:
1. of an oval or circular profile;
2. finished so as to provide visual contrast with the surroundings against which it is seen;
3. easy and comfortable to grip with no sharp edges, smooth and not cold to the touch.

A circular handrail should have a diameter of at least 40 mm but not greater than 50 mm.

A handrail with an oval profile should have dimensions of 50 mm wide and 38 mm deep. The profile should have rounded edges with a radius of at least 15 mm.

There should be a clearance of between 50 mm and 60 mm between a handrail and any adjacent wall surface and any handrail support should meet the handrail, centrally, on its underside. The clearance between the bottom of the rail and any cranked support, or continuous balustrade should be at least 50 mm to minimize the risk of the handrail supports interrupting the smooth running of a person’s hand along the rail.

If you have continuous flights does the continuous handrail have to extend at least 300mm beyond the first and last nosing at the central well of the staircase, as it would for a single flight staircase?

An ambulant disabled person should be able to hold a handrail for support either before taking the first step up or down or after reaching the landing from the last step in a flight. That should normally be possible where the handrail continues around the central well of a stair without further extension onto the landing, particularly if the handrail continues in an unbroken radius.

Pararaph 3.17: Is it reasonable to have to provide lifts in small two-storey buildings in Planning Use Class B1 (office/light industrial use) where there is no provision for access for the general public?

The Design Considerations in Approved Document M: Volume 2 Buildings other than dwellings 3.17 make it clear that “…a passenger lift is the most suitable means of vertical access and should be provided wherever possible. However, given the space constraints in some buildings, it may not always be possible to install the type and size of passenger lift that would be suitable for use by all, and other options may need to be considered to provide for users with mobility impairments.”

Approved Document M: Volume 2 Buildings other than dwellings 3.21 and 3.22 add that “…For all buildings, a passenger lift is the most suitable form of access for people moving from one storey to another…” but emphasise that “…in exceptional circumstances for new developments with particular constraints (e.g. a listed building, or an infill site in a historic town centre), where a passenger lift cannot be accommodated, a vertical lifting platform (platform lift), although not equivalent to a passenger lift, may be considered as an alternative option to provide access for persons with impaired mobility.” The Provisions at Approved Document M: Volume 2 Buildings other than dwellings 3.24 state that “…The provision of lifting devices will satisfy Requirement M1 or M2 if … new developments have a passenger lift serving all storeys [or] new developments, where due to site constraints a passenger lift cannot be accommodated to provide access to persons with impaired mobility, have a lifting platform, of a type designed for the vertical height to be traveled”

The guidance is clear therefore that the normal expectation would be for a lift to be provided in new developments, with justifiable exceptions where a lifting platform may be acceptable. It should be noted that the situations mentioned (e.g. a listed building or an infill site in a historic town centre) are examples only. Each situation should be judged on its merits.

The aforesaid does not however mean that there will be no exceptions to these principles. The legal requirement of the Regulations is that there shall be reasonable provision for access. What is reasonable must be judged on the circumstances of the individual case, and there will almost certainly be cases where the provision of any kind of lifting device may be unreasonable.

The onus must, however, be on the applicant to justify such exceptions in an Access Statement. As an indication of the sort of factors that might be relevant to such a justification, applicants may wish to demonstrate for example that no members of the general public are accommodated, that all facilities are replicated on each floor, that the space demand of the lift and associated landings is disproportionate to the accommodation provided, that adequate provision is made for installation of a lift at a later date should it be required, and so forth.

It would not be reasonable to set out in guidance such as this exactly what combination of circumstances would justify omission of a lift, but nor would it be reasonable for a building control body to state in advance of consideration of an application that provision of a lift would not be required.

Definitions – 0.26: Is a kitchen a “habitable room”?

“Habitable rooms” are defined in Approved Document M: Volume 2 Buildings other than dwellings under paragraph 0.26 as “… for the purpose of defining the principal storey [habitable room] … a room used, or intended to be used, for dwelling purposes, including a kitchen but not a bathroom or a utility room.

Access strategy – 0.20-0.25: Is there any additional guidance on Access Statements?

The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) closed on September 2007. Its responsibility for helping secure civil rights for disabled people has now transferred to the new Equality and Human Rights Commission. The Disability Rights Commission had prepared a guide: ‘Access Statements: Achieving an inclusive environment by ensuring continuity throughout the planning, design and management of buildings and spaces’, which is still available on the DRC archived website.

Regulation 9: What type of building work is exempt from building control charges because it falls within Regulation 9 of The Building (Local Authority Charges) Regulations 1998 (SI 1998 No 3129)?

The building work which is exempt from charges is:

  • Any alteration to an existing public building or home occupied by a disabled person which is solely for the purpose of enabling a disabled person to get in or out, or to provide better facilities for a disabled person.
  • The provision or extension of a room in a home where the sole use of the room will be
  • To carry out medical treatment of a disabled person which cannot be carried out in another room, or
  • To store medical equipment used by a disabled person, or
  • To replace or adapt accommodation or a facility in a building which already existed but which a disabled person could not use without assistance.

Is the guidance in BS BS 8300:2001, where it differs from the guidance in AD M, an acceptable alternative?

Approved Document M “Access to and use of buildings” Volume 2: Buildings other than dwellings (ADM Vol.2) currently states: “Approved Documents are intended to provide guidance for some of the more common building situations. However, there may well be alternative ways of achieving compliance with the requirements. Thus there is no obligation to adopt any particular solution contained in an Approved Document if you prefer to meet the relevant requirement in some other way.

BS 8300:2001 ‘Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people – Code of Practice’ supersedes BS 5619:1978 and BS 5810:1979. BS 8300 provides guidance on good practice in the design of domestic and non-domestic buildings and their approaches so that they are convenient to use by disabled people. The design recommendations are based on user trials and validated desk studies which formed part of a research project commissioned in 1997 and 2001 by DETR.

The guidance in Approved Document M is based on and is complementary to the BS, although the BS contains much additional material that is not apt for, or not considered appropriate for, inclusion in guidance accompanying regulation. Also, in a few cases, the guidance in AD M differs from the recommendation in BS 8300. Compliance with the recommendations in the BS, therefore, while ensuring good practice, is not necessarily equivalent to compliance with the guidance in ADM Vol.2.”

Where the recommendation in BS 8300 implies a higher standard than that recommended in ADM Vol.2, clearly that would be acceptable. Also, where the BS recommendations post-date the publication of AD M and are based on new or re-evaluated research, such as described below, those recommendations too may be considered acceptable alternatives to the guidance in ADM Vol.2.

The BSI committee responsible for BS 8300:2001 published a consolidated amendment (Amendment 1:2005) to the BS in June 2005, prior to commencing work on the major quinquennial review of BS 8300. This amendment addressed a number of issues, some of which relate only to BS 8300, and some common to BS 8300 and ADM Vol.2.

Two or three issues, in particular, are known to have caused some difficulty to industry and the design and building control professions. In order to assist in resolving these concerns, the BS committee has undertaken a review of the research on which the recommendations in both BS 8300 and ADM Vol.2 were based. Where appropriate, guidance based on consideration of the BS amendment is included in the FAQs below.