BSI Group has launched a first-of-its-kind standard on the design of the built environment for a neurodiverse society.
Building designers and public planners have long been responsible for ensuring that the built environment is accessible to people with physical disabilities. But, until now, the needs of neurodivergent people and people with sensory and/or information processing differences have not received the same level of attention, said the national standards body in a press statement.
Neurodivergence includes people with autism, ADHD, dementia, and a range of other sensory and/or information processing differences. It is estimated that around 1 in 7 people in the UK are neurodivergent in some form.
The guidance from BSI contained within the new standard, PAS 6463, applies to buildings and external spaces for public and commercial use, as well as residential accommodation for independent or supported living.
A significant number of people find elements of the built environment uncomfortable, distressing or a barrier to their use, said BSI.
PAS 6463, Design for the mind – Neurodiversity and the built environment – Guide aims to assist building designers in mitigating and eliminating these negative impacts.
Building for neurodiversity
Scott Steedman, director-general, Standards at BSI, said: “Everyone deserves to experience the built environment in a way that supports their general wellbeing and generates better health outcomes.
“The new guidance within PAS 6463 fills a gap in design practice by addressing the needs of people whose minds process information and experiences differently, extending the benefit of inclusive design to a new and important community.
“With PAS 6463, designers can now benefit from guidance on lighting, décor, acoustics, and layout to support neurodiverse users of buildings and infrastructure.”
Jean Hewitt, a senior member of the inclusive design team at Buro Happold and technical author of the PAS, added:
“In addition to designing places to accommodate our diversity in form, size and physical ability, there is also a profound need to design for neurological difference.
“Since my first involvement in this area in 2009, I have hoped for some progress for the many neurodivergent colleagues, friends, and family whose lives are unnecessarily blighted by places that don’t work for them.
“Some have a formal diagnosis, but many do not; there are also many neurotypical people more mildly but regularly affected by environments on a day-to-day basis, perhaps triggering unsteadiness, migraines or experiencing extra daily stress through elements that are not intuitive or comfortable for them.
“My learning throughout the process of developing this PAS leads me to believe at least 30% of the population are negatively impacted by elements that could so easily be adjusted or eliminated during design, procurement, and management without any cost implications.
“This PAS is an opportunity to ask everyone involved in the built environment to carefully consider this normal neurological diversity of humans rather than just meeting basic regulatory demands – places should be comfortable for everyone to visit and use without encountering emotional distress or difficulty. I’m very excited to have been involved in developing this guidance to help make this the case for many more people.”
The following organisations contributed to the PAS 6463 Steering Group:
• Association for Dementia Studies
• BBC Workplace
• Buro Happold
• Caudwell Children
• CROMOCON Ltd
• Department for Education
• Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC)
• Do-IT Solutions Ltd
• Forbo Flooring UK Ltd.
• Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design
• Le Lay Architects
• Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
• Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)
• Saint-Gobain Ecophon
• Sport England
• Stirling University
• Transport for London (TfL)
• Worshipful Company of Lightmongers (WCL)
Image credit: Nokwan007/shutterstock
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