“All Products and the Built Environment to be Aesthetic and Usable to the Greatest Extent Possible by Everyone, regardless of their Age, Ability, or Status in Life.” Ronald Mace.

Architects design for living things mostly and design non-living things to conform to living things’ needs. Humans originate in numerous configurations, and as such, no one-size-fits-all humans. These prompt architects to design to anthropometrics, metric standards, universal design, and other principles. Universal Design is the awareness that a space can be designed and built in a mode to make it accessible and usable by a very large number of people. Universal design creates a set of principles for the design of both working and living spaces for both the widest range of people and the widest range of circumstances. It seeks to take into consideration when designing the way different people perceive, move through or use a space. These considerations include height, hand dominance, body size and age. Ronald Mace, an Architect, in the year 1997 coined the term “Universal Design”. He, alongside his team of 10 professionals (architects and designers), developed the universal design principles at the Centre for Universal Design, North Carolina State University. This was formed to create a guideline for designing spaces, buildings, and environments. Mace was a wheelchair user for a long period of his life, making him advocate passionately for universal design. 

Let’s look at the principles through an example:

Ed Roberts Campus

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Ed Roberts Campus_©Je’Nen Chastain

The Ed Roberts campus was created with the seven principles of universal design, with a design that sought to create an environment that was easy and instinctive for people with different abilities. The building is located in Ashby BART station and the main entry plaza, which serves as a transit plaza for different commuters. The building was designed by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects with the building using sandblasted concrete, Ipe wood shade screens and stucco. The facility is made up of exhibition space, a childcare centre, a café, offices, a fitness centre, community meeting rooms and job training facilities in an area of 7900m2.

Principle 1: Equitable Use

Equitable use is the first universal design principle, and it states that a design should be marketable and useful to the public with their diverse abilities. In summary, this principle makes the same use means available to all its users, either identically or equivalently. The rule also tries to avoid the segregation of any user with provisions of the necessities such as privacy, security, and safety.

A helical ramp leading to the next floor allows for easy access and safe evacuation

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Ed Roberts Campus_©Tim Griffith

Principle 2: Flexibility in Use

Flexibility in use is the second universal design principle, and it states that a design should accommodate an extensive range of each person’s specific abilities and preferences.  This principle seeks to welcome varied methods of using facilities and such to help in the adaptability and accuracy of users.

Oversized elevators with special controls to facilitate wheelchair use

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Ed Roberts Campus_©m00f

Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive Use

Simple and Intuitive use is the third universal design principle, and it states that a design should be simple and easy to understand for any user regardless of such user’s knowledge, language, or concentration level. This principle is meant to remove any unnecessary complexity and make the design consistent with the user’s expectations.

The building’s doors are sensor-controlled for  hands-free building system controls

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Ed Roberts Campus_©Tim Griffith

Principle 4: Perceptible Information

Perceptible information is the fourth universal design principle, and it states a design communicates essential information efficiently to the user, irrespective of the user’s sensory or ambient conditions. This principle encourages the provision of a different avenue for the continuous presentation of the necessary information.

Restrooms put up with all types of ability levels and contain private rooms

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Ed Roberts Campus_©Emilie Raguso

Principle 5: Tolerance for Error

Tolerance for error is the fifth universal design principle, and it states that a design should minimize dangers and the adverse results of unintended activities. This principle is meant to minimize hazards through design and create certain procedures such as warning of hazards, and fail-safe features and discourage unconscious action where full concentration is needed.

Easy-to-navigate wayfinding system by acoustical landmarks, interior finishes, and flooring

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Ed Roberts Campus_©Tim Griffith

Principle 6: Low Physical Effort

Low physical effort is the sixth universal design principle, and it states that a design ought to be used comfortably and efficiently with a minimum level of fatigue. This means the design principle seeks to keep users in their body neutral position while minimizing repetitive actions and constant physical effort.

Pavement is textured to signal to those approaching who have no or low vision

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Ed Roberts Campus_©Tim Griffith

Principle 7: Appropriate Size and Space for Approach and Use

This is the seventh universal design principle and states that a design should have proper space and size for a user’s body size, posture, or mobility to approach, reach, use or manipulate. This principle encourages the provision of a clear line of sight and comfortable hand reach for either a standing or a seated user to view important elements or reach all components. It also seeks to accommodate different hand and grip sizes and create suitable space for personal assistance or assistive device use.

The ceiling is covered in a very soft, absorbent material designed to improve the acoustics

Ed Roberts Campus_©Tim Griffith

Architecture is the science and art of designing and constructing buildings for people to use and dwell in; as such good architecture should be defined by inclusivity. Inclusivity involves providing equal access to resources and opportunities for people who might have been marginalised originally due to their unique and diverse abilities. Architects should make a conscious effort to make designs that can be accessed by everyone, especially in public buildings.

References

  1. Cforat.org. 2022. Ed Roberts Campus | CforAT. [online] Available at: <https://www.cforat.org/about/ed_roberts_campus/> 
  2. Washington.edu. 2022. Universal Design: Process, Principles, and Applications | DO-IT. [online] Available at: <https://www.washington.edu/doit/universal-design-process-principles-and-applications#:~:text=Equitable%20use.,of%20individual%20preferences%20and%20abilities.> 
  3. Now What?! Advocacy, Activism & Alliances in American Architecture Since 1968. 2022. Ed Roberts Campus — Now What?! Advocacy, Activism & Alliances in American Architecture Since 1968. [online] Available at: <https://www.nowwhat-architexx.org/articles/2018/11/27/ed-roberts-campus>
  4. ArchDaily. 2022. Ed Roberts Campus / LMS Architects. [online] Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/122507/ed-roberts-campus-leddy-maytum-stacy-architects> 
  5. Authority, N. and Design, C., 2022. The 7 Principles | Centre for Excellence in Universal Design. [online] Universaldesign.ie. Available at: <https://universaldesign.ie/what-is-universal-design/the-7-principles/#p1> 
  6. Freerange Future. 2018. 7 Principles of universal design. [online] Available at: <https://freerangefuture.com/7-principles-of-universal-design/> 
Author

Chukwuebuka is an architecture student and an amateur writer using his skills to express his ideas to the world. He has written a few articles for DAPC Uniben and he is adventuring to become a popular writer.

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