5. Procuring built environment projects

New projects

There are 4 major stages in new built environment projects:

  1. Appraisal (this stage is the most critical for design work, and changes at this stage are the least expensive to change)
  2. Planning (this stage is critical for design work, and changes at this stage are not expensive)
  3. Implementation (this stage is the least critical for design work, and changes at this stage are expensive)
  4. Review (changes at this stage are the most expensive)

You should consider and consult people with disabilities at each of those stages.

For smaller projects, consult users with disabilities and refer to existing standards such as "Building for Everyone: a universal design approach". For larger projects, you may need to assemble an accessibility team that includes accessibility experts.


The appraisal stage allows staff to assess the project's merit and decide whether to approve it in principle. At this stage, consider accessibility for people with disabilities in relation to the project's rationale, wider socio-economic environment, context of government policy, effectiveness in meeting financial and physical objectives, efficiency for the resources invested, and socio-economic impact.

Legal compliance and best practice

Legal compliance to "Part M - Access and Use (2010)" from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is the minimum level of accessibility for all new building projects. You can greatly improve accessibility for people with disabilities by deciding that your project must follow a best practice document such as "Building for Everyone: a universal design approach" from the National Disability Authority or "BS 8300:2009+A1:2010 Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people. Code of practice" from the British Standards Institution. It will normally cost more to retrofit a building to improve its accessibility, than to plan for and implement a high level of accessibility from the start. Include the chosen standard of accessibility in the works requirement, instead of using it as a selection criterion or award criterion.

Be aware that following minimum specified dimensions too exactly can cause problems. Unforeseen events on the building site can force builders to compromise on some specifications. Also, human error could lead to a building not matching its design's specifications. For example, a design for a ramp with a gradient of 1:20 can lead to a ramp with a gradient of 1:18 being built. Some people with disabilities have difficulty using ramps that have gradients of less than 1:20.

Encourage designers to use wider, longer, more level dimensions for spatial enhancement. for example:

  • An area with a gradient steeper than 1:20 needs intermediate landings, handrails, and an alternative stepped access route;
  • An area with a gradient less steep than 1:20 but steeper than 1:50 needs intermediate landings, but does not need handrails or an alternative stepped access route;
  • An area with a gradient of 1:50 can be considered as level, and does not need intermediate landings, handrails or an alternative stepped access route.

Document your approach to including accessibility in the project, and the access team. List any major accessibility-related expenses, such as ramps or evacuation lifts. Remember that ramps are integral to design, and should not be considered as add-ons to design. Level changes cause ramping, so the design should feature level changes as intentional, well thought-out features, and not as solutions to spatial problems elsewhere in the design.

NDA has significant resources to guide public bodies in improving the accessibility of their built Environment, such as "Building for Everyone: a universal design approach", which will guide agencies on all aspects of the built environment, including approach and building management and which takes account of all relevant regulations and standards.


Appropriate, transparent and inclusive consultation with relevant experts should take place to ensure that all issues are identified and addressed appropriately and at the right time. The scale of the consultation process should be decided by reference to the size and complexity of the project, the number of stakeholders, the level of standardisation and the nature of the functional requirements. Include an accessibility expert or universal design expert as one of the experts whom you consult.

Your stakeholder communications plan should have details of how to consult people with disabilities and/or disability groups to ensure accessibility. It should also have contact details for organisations that you might need services from. Consultation is an on-going process; it is not a once-off event. See the NDA's 2002 publication, 'Ask Me' Guidelines for Effective Consultation with People with Disabilities for more details.

Some accessibility features of your project cannot ever be compromised; for example, some people will not be able to fit through certain doors, or climb some steps, or escape from certain buildings in an emergency. Some accessibility features of your project can sometimes be compromised within strict conditions; for example, some people might prefer automatic doors but might be able to use doors that open for them when they press a button near the doors. You should make sure that you distinguish very carefully which accessibility requirements can be compromised and which accessibility features of your project can sometimes be compromised within strict conditions. For the accessibility features of your project that can sometimes be compromised within strict conditions, you should specify those conditions. When procuring, emphasise the need for designers to pay particular attention to ancillary areas, such as bathrooms, that are critical for accessibility. Make sure the designers will give them primary importance in the design process, so that those areas do not get squeezed into remainder spaces.

When you appoint a project supervisor, make sure that they have experience and expertise in accessibility for people with disabilities, or universal design.

Some projects will have business case objectives that include accessibility for customers with disabilities. For example, your project might aim to allow greater numbers of customers to access a service, or your project might aim to allow greater numbers of older customers to access a building.

If you specify a best practice document such as "Building for Everyone: a universal design approach" or "BS 8300:2009+A1:2010 Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people. Code of Practice" at the start of the project, make sure to consider whether your project is adhering to that best practice document when you are reviewing the project. At reviews, emphasise the risks of designing to minimum standards and minimum specified dimensions.

Appoint design team

The contracting authority, when selecting a design team, should ensure that the team's expertise includes accessibility expertise (or universal design expertise). that will allow the design team to ensure that the finished building will have a consistent level of accessibility throughout. Every part of a customer's journey through a building must be accessible. For example, if a perfectly accessible toilet is at the end of a corridor that has a very narrow entrance, the toilet will be of limited use to most people who use wheelchairs.

For civil engineering projects, where an engineer or specialist sub consultant is responsible is producing a preferred route (location) report, the report should include a note on the accessibility benefits of the preferred solution.

Design team assesses output requirements, constraints, budget

If you are going to employ a communications consultant, make sure that the communications consultant is experienced in working with people with disabilities and disability organisations. Check that the communications consultant has taken disability equality training and has previously worked successfully with disability organisations or people with disabilities.

In summary, the design stage must standardise all routes, openings, counters, reaches, and so on. At this stage, a simple accessible drawing is required. This dedicated drawing would be a floor plan that emphasises all routes, bathrooms, counters, doors, and so on; all non-accessibility related detail should be faded out. Typical access detail sketches can be pasted on to drawing. This simple exercise in CADD (computer-aided design and drafting) systems eliminates all ambiguity and focuses on specifics.

Restricted tendering procedures for works contractors

For projects that will use restricted tendering procedures, section 5.11 of the "Instructions to Tenderers" form describes how to specify that specialists are necessary. You can use section 1.6, "Specialists", of form QW1, "Suitability Assessment Questionnaire - Works Contractor: Restricted Procedure", to ask for details of an accessibility specialist. Section 3.4b, "Educational and Professional Qualifications (Personnel)", of form QW3, "Suitability Assessment Questionnaire - Works Specialist for Specialist Area of Work", is where you can collect information about the technical capability of the accessibility specialist that the tenderer proposes to use. Use form QW3 to collect the information about the tenderer's previous accessible projects and a statement on universal design.


The implementation stage requires clear arrangements for monitoring progress and cost control, securing project standards and timely delivery. Regular consultation with people with disabilities and accessibility experts will allow staff to identify problems when they become apparent, and reduce the cost of fixing those problems. Remember that adjustments will always have to be made during building, and that one adjustment can result in other adjustments being necessary.

Arrange Access audits to check conformance to the specified accessibility standard, so that issues can be identified and addressed sooner rather than later. The number and scope of access audits should be relative to the scale of the project. Make sure that assessment of accessibility is part of the process for approving payments to the contractor. Adjust dimensions in favour of accessible space: make areas longer and wider as necessary. The first fixing of plumbing and electrical is critical; the designer should mark out these items with the contractor before installation.

Ensure that the construction process itself does not create accessibility problems for people with disabilities. Refer to the "Management of the Construction Site" section in this chapter.


The review stage allows staff to examine whether the project's objectives have been met, and whether the project was delivered to the required standard. Staff can also use this stage to decide how to use the experience they gained on this project on future projects. Examine whether staff were able to implement the standards of accessibility that were stated, and whether consultation with people with disabilities and accessibility experts guided the project effectively. Carry out a post-occupancy evaluation.

Most importantly, ask for feedback from people with disabilities who have used the building.

Refurbishments of buildings

When refurbishing buildings, consult an accessibility expert, or universal design expert, as soon as possible, before any work is done. Buildings can have poor accessibility for people with disabilities, and the options for improving accessibility can be limited. If you wait to consult an expert until after some work has been done, you might find that the work that has been done has decreased your options even further. Prioritise the accessibility work: address the issues that cause most difficulty to people with disabilities first, and then address the issues that cause less difficulty to people with disabilities. Make sure that no refurbishment work takes place until after the stakeholders have discussed, and agreed on, a drawing that highlights all of the required accessibility works.

The department of the Environment, Community and Local Government have a "Part M - Access and Use (2010) - Flowchart" for "application of Part M 2010 to existing buildings other than dwellings". That flowchart will help you to decide which building regulations apply to your building. (note that this flowchart is an image and not text; some people may not be able to read it.) that department also have Frequently Asked Questions for Disability Access Certificate - Regularisation Cert - 7 day notice.

Restoration and adaptation of heritage sites

When you are restoring or adapting heritage sites, mention in all of your procurement documents that the contractor must conform to the National Disability Authority's Code of Practice on Accessible Heritage Sites.

Refer to "Advice Series: Access - improving the accessibility of historic buildings and places" from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for more detailed advice.

Useful references

External Environment

People access both the external environment for travel and recreation. accessibility applies to all aspects of the external environment, including:

  • The natural landscape (mountains, viewing points, peatlands, beaches, and historic buildings and places)
  • The tempered landscape (temporary events, interpretive centres, golf, country parks, woodlands, picnic areas, camping sites and caravan parks, and waterways)
  • The tamed landscape (parks, cemeteries, sports grounds, play areas, and gardens and courtyards)
  • Surfacing (legibility, materials, paths and pavements, tactile paving, pedestrian crossings, and maintenance)
  • Level changes (ramps and steps)
  • Site furniture (placement, colour and contrast, bollards, gates, drinking fountains, seating, and picnic tables)
  • Parking (provision and siting, designated car parking spaces, multi-storey and underground car parks, drop-off points, taxi ranks, parking bicycles, and escape routes)
  • Protection of outdoor works (perimeters of construction sites and maintenance of pavements and roadways).

Procurers should:

  • Understand the context, possibilities, and limitations of the Environment
  • Be aware of relevant legislation and policies
  • Identify all possible users
  • Think broadly and creatively
  • Allow the function to dictate the form
  • Use materials appropriate to the location and purpose.

Imagination can allow designs to open up the experience of the external Environment to the broadest range of potential users and visitors.

The "External Environment" section of the national disability authority's "Building for Everyone: a Universal Design Approach" publication guides on considerations and standards for the built environment.

Make sure that contractors follow best practice guidance on accessibility of streetscapes. When compromise on best practice is unavoidable, consult disability groups and accessibility experts as necessary to ensure that the result is as accessible for its users as possible.

Selection criterion:
  • "Provide evidence to show your understanding of accessibility and your capacity to design and execute work in line with best practice guidance such as 'Building for Everyone: a Universal Design Approach' from the National Disability Authority and 'Road and Street Design for All' from the Local Government Management Services Board."

Useful references

Management of the construction site

The process of construction work, whether maintenance, repair or new build, can cause significant risk to passers-by unless it is carried out properly. People with impaired vision are particularly at risk from temporary obstruction.

Award criterion:

Demonstrate how, for example, you would make sure that:

  • There would be a safe alternative route for people with disabilities;
  • Public areas beside the construction site would be protected with a hoarding;
  • All scaffolding would provide sufficient headroom;
  • The colour of hoardings would contrast with their surroundings and be illuminated at night;
  • Scaffolding poles would be enclosed in protective sleeves;
  • There would be sufficient pathway and handrail along any obstruction;
  • There would be a rigid colour-contrasting barrier at the site of any pavement or services maintenance work;
  • The name and address of the contractor and of the authority who granted roadway repair or hoarding licence would be displayed, so that people could contact them if there is a problem;
  • Any work on pavements and roadways would be protected by a sufficiently high, rigid, colour-contrasting hoarding that would not topple;
  • Footpaths would not be blocked;
  • Surroundings would be kept clean;
  • The public, and particularly people with disabilities, would be notified about any disruption
  • You address other aspects of access in the event that we have not covered everything in this list.

Useful references