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AN ASSESSMENT OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF UNIVERSAL DESIGN PRINCIPLES IN THE PROVISION OF BUILDING SERVICES IN MULTI-STOREY BUILDINGS
Universal design (UD) can be described as the design of products and environments to be usable by all people to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design, thus bridging the gap between housing and disability though the concept of Universal Design or ‘Design for all’ has been neglected in most developing countries including Nigeria. This study assesses the implementation of universal design principles in the provision of building services in multi-storey buildings. It also seeks assess conformity of thedesign of building services in multi- storey buildings to Document M (disability standard of the United Kingdom) and establish if Statutory Authorities check designs to ascertain its conformity to universal design principles. Questionnaires were distributed to building designers and a checklist structured using disability standard of the United Kingdom was used as a guide to assess these buildings services for conformity to universal design. Also, Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) was used to analyse the data generated from the questionnaires. It was established that most designers of building services became familiar with UD through personal study or on-the-job trainings as very few of the building services designers in Abuja learned about UD in the university. Development control agencies have equally added to the non-implementation of UD as most designs are rarely or never checked for conformity to UD. In conclusion, Persons living with temporal or permanent disabilities have been segregated or stigmatized by architectural and building services designs, there is a of shallow knowledge of UD by professionals in the construction industry and most building services provisions have shown low conformity to UD principles.
There has been an increasing focus on the interface between housing and disability, as
community attitudes and physical barriers in the built environment have prevented people with disabilities from fully participating in society (Zola, 2006). Access to education, employment, housing, recreation, cultural events, and transportation has been denied many people due to designs that do not put the needs of people with disability into consideration (Shapiro, 1994). Along with the growth in the disabled population, the quest for independence and equal rights has grown, as well(Shapiro, 1994).
Universal design (UD), which entails the designs of products that are universally accommodating and cater for all their users (Bone, 1996), is an important and integral aspect
of building design. Seven principles of Universal Design have been identified by Saville-Smith (2006) as: flexibility in use, simple and intuitive use, perceptible information, tolerance of error, low physical effort, and size and space for approach and use, provide a framework for cost-effective policies and strategies to increase physical accessibility for people with disabilities. The aim is to ensure that no one is unable to or finds it very difficult to use a building or its features on account of the way it was designed (Goldsmith, 2000).This seems to have been neglected in Nigeria and advocates of universal design recognize the legal, economic, and social power of a concept that addressed the common needs of people with and without disabilities (Miji, 2009). Access to buildings, spaces and the services therein, can be set at different levels of functionality for disabled people. Welch and Palmers (1995) identify a continuum of accessibility for domestic buildings that ranges from Negotiable, Visitability, Liveable, Adaptable and Universal. Accessibility of services is essential if the goal of fostering functional independence is to be achieved in people with disability. Accessibility to building services is currently very poor in many developing countries (Lang and Upah, 2008; Mijiet al., 2009). This shows the importance the society attaches to people with disability.
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