Accessibility for buildings – greater comfort and quality of life for everyone
Accessibility for buildings: Tips on planning, DIN standards and laws. Passing through a door quickly without help, or opening a heavy window with no problem- these actions are not as always as easy as they first appear. This applies not only to people in wheelchairs or with other physical impairments: with a leg in plaster, fully-laden arms or a pram, simple everyday actions can become a real challenge. The solution: barrier-free planning, building and living.
What does accessibility mean?
Accessibility is a key topic for society, and one which affects us all. According to the German Basic Law, the Disability Equality Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, everyone has the right to unimpeded access to all designed living areas, regardless of personal situation, physical condition or age. Accessibility allows everyone to live as equals, self-determinedly, and without external help.
Barrier-free means more than “handicapped accessible”
Barrier-free design, therefore, has many advantages – not only for people with physical disabilities. Consequently, the term “handicapped accessible” is rarely used these days. Why? Imagine: you are standing in front of a door with heavy bags of shopping in your hands and have to open it with your elbows. Or you have to put a wobbly stool in place to tilt the window – which is an inconvenient and sometimes even dangerous situation. We frequently encounter obstacles on a daily basis that complicate our lives and take up valuable time.
Barrier-free buildings make everyday life easier for everyone
Therefore, barrier-free building and living not only makes your life “handicapped accessible”, but also free from obstacles. Accessibility benefits everyone, and can bring about a positive change in their lives. Threshold-free entrances and wide doors not only help older people or persons with walking aids or other restrictions, but also families with prams or travellers with heavy luggage. Accessibility means comfort, inclusion and a better quality of life for everyone.
Barrier-free and hygienic solutions
High level of hygiene & barrier-free access, via GC 307+ © GEZE GmbH
Many barrier-free solutions not only improve comfort for users, but also improve hygienic safety. For example, radar proximity switches ensure that automated doors open without contact. This avoids physical contact and thus the possibility of transmitting germs, bacteria, and viruses. Especially in heavily-trafficked areas, public buildings and nursing and healthcare facilities, this significantly improves hygiene, safety and comfort.
One good example comes from the healthcare and nursing area: Non-contact proximity switches were installed in the Fux Campagna residential home. They ensure that doors equipped with the GEZE Slimdrive can be opened in a non-contact, barrier-free manner. The proximity switches detect persons and objects within a detection area of 10 to 50 centimetres, and can be adjusted as needed. This means, for example, that people who use walking aids or wheelchairs can comfortably open the door without directly touching the electric strike. This improves barrier-free comfort while also increasing hygiene.
Barrier-free planning, building and living
Automatic doors for barrier-free access © Martin Jakob / GEZE GmbH
Public awareness of the subject of accessibility has increased in recent years. In particular, accessible planning and construction for public buildings and private housing is playing a key role. The goal: to plan and construct buildings and housing such that they can be used by anyone without external help and without limitation. There are important reasons for this. The number of people who are able to and want to lead an independent life into old age is rising.
Accessibility facilitates inclusion
Enshrined in the German Basic Law, accessibility is also increasingly demanded by people with disabilities. Only through the removal of barriers is a life without the constant support of others possible for these people. In addition to this, there is the very topical issue of "inclusion", the right of every individual – with or without a disability – to be able to go everywhere.
Access for all includes barrier-free design
New and sustainable lifestyles, which include simple use of buildings and spaces, are also a clear trend. With easy and helpful facilities, accessibility is very closely associated with comfort and design. The term access for all is becoming increasingly important in this context. The international design concept creates living spaces that are accessible, understandable, and usable equally by all. According to this concept, buildings must be made easy to access for the largest possible groups of people, and it must be possible to use them without external help. Access for all is not directed towards a specific target audience, but rather makes things easier for everyone. Barrier-free planning and building is also reflected in access for all.
Framework of regulations and standards
Barrier-free design for architectural environments and buildings is stipulated by numerous legal provisions and standards. The regulations vary according to the country. In Germany, accessibility is enshrined in the German Basic Law and the Model Building Regulation and state building regulations, and is an integral criterion for public buildings.
Art. 3(3)(2) of the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz/GG) states: “No one may be disadvantaged because of a disability”. This means that everyone is entitled to participate in public life and in society. The German Basic Law takes precedence over all other laws and standards.
In 2006, the general assembly of the United Nations enacted the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD), which entered into mandatory force for all member states in May of 2008. Article 9 stipulates that barrier-free design is essential “to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas”.
German Equality Opportunities for Disabled Persons Act
The German Equality Opportunities for Disabled Persons Act (BGG), which came into force on 1 May 2002, is designed to prevent or eliminate any disadvantage to people with disabilities. The German BGG defines accessibility as follows:
- Section 4 BGG Accessibility: "Structural facilities and other facilities, means of transport, technical equipment, information processing systems, acoustic and visual sources of information and communication equipment and other designed living areas provide barrier-free access when they can be accessed and used in the usual way by disabled people without any particular difficulties, and without any external help being necessary. The use of aids which prove to be necessary due to the disability are permitted for this."
- Section 8 BGG Ensuring accessibility in the areas of construction and transport: (1)“New civil buildings and large federal civil renovation or extension construction projects, including for federal corporations and public law institutions and foundations, must be designed to be barrier-free in accordance with general good professional practice."
Model Building Regulation (MBO)
The demands on barrier-free building are enshrined in the German Model Building Regulation and in most state building regulations. They are an integral part of the technical construction regulations, and their implementation is therefore mandatory:
- Section 50 MBO Barrier-free building: (1) "In buildings with more than two homes, the homes on one floor must be within accessible reach. The living areas and bedrooms, one toilet, one bathroom and the kitchen or a kitchenette must be accessible with a wheelchair in these homes."
(2) "The parts of structural facilities which are publicly accessible and used for general visitor traffic are subject to specific provisions. It must be possible for people with disabilities, older people and people with small children to use these areas barrier-free and without them needing any external help."
In addition to the legal regulations, DIN standards for barrier-free building planning and design must also be observed. In Germany, barrier-free building is defined by the DIN 18040-1 and DIN 18040-2 standards. According to these standards, structural facilities are considered barrier-free if they are accessible for persons with disabilities in the usual way, without any particular difficulties, and without any external help being necessary. As technical regulations, the standards have obtained building inspectorate validity.
- DIN 18040-1 Barrier-free building – Planning foundations – Part 1 Publicly accessible buildings: DIN 18040-1 was published in October 2010 and is limited to publicly accessible buildings. The standard specifically refers to building sections which are used by the public.
Publicly accessible buildings in accordance with the Model Building Regulation (Sec. 50(2) MBO) include:
- Cultural and educational institutions
- Sports and leisure facilities
- Healthcare facilities
- Office, administrative and court buildings
- Retail industry
- Visitor and accommodation facilities
- Car parks, garages and toilet facilities
There are technical regulations in force for workplaces: The “ASR barrier-free design of workplaces” replaces DIN 18024-2:1996-11. Each German state is obligated to enact more specific regulations and building codes.
- DIN 18040-2 Barrier-free building – Planning foundation – Part 2 Homes:
The standard was published in 2011 and relates to barrier-free planning, design and facilities in homes, buildings which include a residential units, and their external facilities.
Both DIN standards are considered fundamental for planning purposes, and provide specifications to ensure compliance with accessibility.
Combine fire protection and accessibility
Not only do buildings need to comply with the framework of regulations and standards for accessibility: preventive fire protection is also stipulated by law. Combining fire protection measures with barrier-free design is complex: fire protection doors need to close quickly in case of a fire and create safe fire sections, but also offer everyday barrier-free use.
Discover our free fire protection white paper
Find further tips in our presentation on fire protection for doors in existing buildings
Our fire protection expert, Peter Rürup, gave a presentation on what to consider when planning barrier-free fire protection doors at the exhibitor forum of the digital FeuerTrutz 2020:WATCH THE Feuertrutz VIDEO HERE
Accessibility in the private sector
More and more people would also like greater comfort and quality of life within their own four walls. This means that many private construction projects are increasingly looking to barrier-free concepts such as universal design. Intelligent living in smart homes is also becoming more popular. In addition to the universal design and smart home concepts, there are also additional concepts in the private sector which have similar aims. Essentially, they have one thing in common: a focus on people and solutions that create barrier-free access in everyday life.
Barrier-free door and window systems increase comfort
Accessibility offers numerous advantages in all areas of life. It helps people suffering the temporary consequences of accidents, people with prams, baggage or shopping bags, and families with small children. Automatic door and window solutions thus offer increased user comfort - particularly when manual operation of doors or windows is inconvenient, difficult or even impossible.
Barrier-free living is a forward-thinking topic
In addition to comfort-related optimisation, independent living and housing also play an important role. Things many people take for granted become very difficult or impossible with age. Over the next few years, Germany will see a significant change in the age structure of its population. The proportion of those aged 65 and over is continuously increasing. One in three citizens will be at aged 65 or over by 2060. Given this changing age structure in Germany, the older generation of the future is already dealing with the topic of accessibility. Older people today are also more active than ever before, and hope to live independently into old age.
Designing barrier-free doors and windows with GEZE
Barrier-free door systems for greater user comfort © Martin Jakob / GEZE GmbH
Operating and passing through doors and the opening and closing of windows are some of the most important aspects of barrier-free design. As a pioneer in the area of accessibility, GEZE removes barriers with a comprehensive selection of innovative and individual solutions for door, window, and safety technology in both the public and private sectors.
Improved user comfort
GEZE solutions offer increased safety and convenience thanks to their simple and intuitive operation. They take personal wishes and individual needs into account, and make life simpler and more comfortable. Building-related solutions from GEZE can also be perfectly integrated visually into spatial design.
Safe and DIN-conforming solutions
Automatic door and window systems from GEZE meet the most stringent safety standards and comply with the guidelines of the DIN standards for barrier-free building. With complete solutions from a single source, GEZE is your expert partner for the implementation of projects in accordance with the applicable standards – from the planning phase to after-sales service.
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Accessibility in the new Leonberg Town Hall
GEZE has planned and created a complete concept for accessibility and building safety at the new Leonberg Town Hall. The door and window solutions from GEZE perfectly integrate into the purist design of the new-build. Learn more here!
Individual and project-specific planning
Comprehensive and universal accessibility in a new building means getting fully to grips with the subject even in the planning phase. GEZE offers comprehensive support, including in the planning phase. Accessibility concepts are designed according to the needs of the building's various user groups, in compliance with all legal regulations, and in line with DIN 18040 as the planning basis for accessibility.
Broad expertise from a single source
GEZE offers a wide range of products in the area of barrier-free building - from automatic drives, hold-open systems, free swing door closers and activation devices to access control, panic locks, electric window opening systems, smoke and heat extraction systems and SHEV. All products can be simply and safely assembled and are suitable for application in public and private buildings.
Comprehensive service from the outset
GEZE supports accessibility in existing as well as new buildings. Unlike ensuring accessibility in new buildings, adapting existing buildings is a greater challenge in terms of planning and design. GEZE experts can optimally solve these challenges with their specialist skills and many years of experience. GEZE supports you as a professional partner from the outset. Thanks to the tightly woven GEZE distribution network, we can provide consultants who can demonstrate possible barrier-free solutions on site for you even at short notice.