The impact of buildings on the environment as well as on the occupants is significant. Besides impacting the environment, the design considerations of buildings also have a lot of role to play in creating or alleviating barriers in their use by the visitors in case of commercial buildings, and residents in case of residential ones.
It has been estimated that buildings account for withdrawal of 1/6th of the world’s available fresh water, a quarter of the wood and 2/5th of the energy produced. Not only does building activity require resources in order to be constructed, but buildings also need these resources in order to be maintained. Even after such huge quantum of resources being spent on their construction and maintenance, a number of buildings now suffer from sick syndrome subjecting their occupants to unhealthy air. Some of these this could have been avoided through more thoughtful planning beginning with the blueprints and construction process.
For all the reasons cited above, there is a need to formulate certain slow design considerations that begin with the general contractor so that the universal accessibility design principles are met during construction of facilities.
Here are some design considerations to bear in mind while designing residential or commercial buildings.
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Access to facilities
· Access strategy should be developed at an early stage.
· The building should be made accessible to the widest spectrum of users possible.
· It should have an access and evacuation plan in place.
· Means of escape in the event of a mishap should be designed keeping users of different abilities and disabilities in view.
Connection with public street:
· Connections from transport drop-offs and pedestrian access should be considered.
· Connection routes from pavement, roads and footbridges should be identified first.
· Vehicular access from the streets to the car park or loading/unloading space needs to be given due attention.
· All accessible routes should be connected to the entrance of the building.
· Segregation of entrances of different user group such as staff, visitors etc. should be done.
· Adequate directional signage for ease of access.
· Supplementary lighting to allow good visibility of signage in the night.
· Contrasting colors in signage to catch attention.
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Here are some additional considerations that can be made by general contractors and designers.
· Width of the pathways should be enough to provide a passage for at least two wheelchair users to cross side by side.
· Straight pathway is a better option if possible.
· If a winding pathway is provided, the turning should have the widest possible radius to avoid acute turning.
· Grating slots should not be so small that they trap crutches or wheels. They should also not be parallel to the direction of traffic.
Changes in level:
· Ramps and slopes should be made use of to connect various levels besides steps and elevators.
· A change in level warning should be provided before the change in level.
· If the change in level is minimal, a full width sloping ground is better than a separate ramp.
· Effecting lighting at foot level to make the change in level visible.
Trees and plantings
· Plants with fragrance and bright colors should be preferred because they provide better sensory stimulation to a passerby.
· Tilt the flower beds to allow children and wheelchair users to enjoy them.
· Raised flower beds are a good idea to enable visitors reach flowers without bending.
Rest places at public areas
Adequate number of benches and seats to be catered for.
· Sitting area should be appropriately covered against sun and rain.
· Allowance of side space to let the wheelchair attendant sit next to the user.
· Availability of space to turn the wheelchair at resting places.
While few of the design consideration mentioned above are applicable to residential buildings, most of them are for commercial buildings. Let us see some design considerations specific to residential buildings.
Whole Building Design Approach for Residential Design:
This approach encourages integration of all building measures. This approach also aims at incorporating green strategies such as water conservation, durability, acoustical comfort, conserving energy, selecting eco-friendly construction material etc. There are eight design objectives that a contractor interested in ‘whole building approach for residential building’ must abide by.
Here is what these consist of:
A residential building must accommodate permanently disabled persons as well as temporary disabled ones who are combating aftermath of an injury. The building has to cater for visitability and in-place aging by considering aspects such as width of doors, location of stair cases etc. to allow equal use by all occupants.
Beauty of a residential space may vary with interpretation of various people. It may also vary with climate, client, context and culture. Aesthetics not only apply to the facade of the building but also to interior design, landscape and the entire community.
3. Cost Effectiveness
The owner must decide whether he wants low initial costs or low operational cost. Is the house aimed at some commercial activities also? Does he want to have a house with a long life span? Answers to all these questions will have a bearing on designing a cost effective house.
The designer/contractor must have a clear idea of how the home will fit its users in terms of size and proximity of spaces required for activities and equipment. Changing needs in the future must be taken into consideration to provide for expansions and replacements.
5. Productivity and Health
Indoor environment has a huge effect on the health of occupants and their productivity. Children and aged members of the house whose immune system is more likely to fail in front of toxic materials are at a greater risk. Contractors must minimize heat, noise, glare, cold, humidity and drafts whose presence is potentially dangerous.
6. Historic Preservation
Historic preservation has benefits such as retaining authenticity and increasing the value of the building when the materials used are no longer available in the open markets.
7. Safety and Security
Safety and security of the community is one of the prime goals of a residential building. The contractor must consider issues such as electrical safety, accident prevention, ergonomics and better indoor air quality while designing the building. The building must be able to resist natural disasters such as earthquakes, blizzards, tornadoes etc.
Construction and use of buildings has a considerable impact on the environment. Keeping this in view, following design principle must be borne in mind:
· Optimizing Site Potential.
· Flexible Design.
· Conserving and Protecting Water.
· Using Environmentally Preferable Products.
· Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality.
· Minimizing Energy Use and Using Renewable Energy Strategies.
· Optimizing Operations and Maintenance Practices.
· Design for End of Life.
The importance of design considerations mentioned above needs no elaboration. Here is one general contractor that understands how excellent planning goes a long way: http://grimesdevelopment.com Proper attention to such design considerations by the contractor can go a long way in making the building environmentally sustainable as well as appropriate for use by its subscribers. We hope these checklists are useful during the planning stage of your design and general contracting considerations.