Creating a sustainable estate is not just about reducing the environmental impact of our buildings. Optimising access and inclusion is a huge part of our sustainable mission.
Our heritage estate presents many design challenges such as small spaces, narrow doorways, lack of accessible toilets and circulation spaces and standard use of steps between levels and at entrances, exits and thresholds. The issues don't end there. Modern inclusive design thinking is best applied from the outset at the initial design stage of buildings and spaces, so how can we approach this at UCL?
The short answer is that it remains a challenge and though adaptations such as lift access, ramps and handrails can all help it is much harder in spaces not designed with access and inclusion in mind. Adaptations are only part of the solution and can only go so far.
The Transforming UCL programme will seek to rebalance this, transforming the estate through new modern user-designed buildings, into one that is inclusive and accessible. More specifically the priority to make our buildings more accessible so that they welcome and include everyone.
Transforming UCL outcomes
- Maximising accessibility and inclusion in teaching, learning and study spaces: We are future-proofing our built assets, ensuring that they are as accessible and useable as possible to the widest groups of building users.
- Minimising the need for adjustments, adaptations and identification of specific needs: Adaptations and adjustments, particularly in highly specific circumstances have their place. But by creating an accessible, inclusive estate we hope to lessen the need for retrofitting of equipment such as lifts, ramps and handrails which can support building users in an inaccessible environment but not fix the problem altogether. We can only do this in situations where we have the opportunity to completely redesign buildings.
- Healthy and productive environments: We are prioritising the comfort and wellbeing of all our staff and students alongside the other functional and technical requirements of our teaching and learning, study, accommodation and office spaces.
- Optimising and improving our community's experience at UCL: The university has been committed to educating people on an equal basis since 1826 - this means providing the best, most inclusive learning experience that we can and re-balancing our historic issues with access in and around our buildings.
Inclusive design in practice
Each of our Transforming UCL contractors have followed the principles of our Inclusive Design Standard in our new and refurbished buildings. We continue to work with AccessAble and other access consultants to address specific areas of our estate.
- Creating level access, lift access and wider doorways, thresholds and circulation spaces where we can
- Creating flexible spaces and quiet rooms to support use of our buildings by a variety of building users
- Increasing our supply of accessible and gender neutral toilets with every refurbishment
- Making a flexible or quiet room where practical in every teaching and learning building
Inclusive and accessible projects
Some examples of current and completed projects that have addressed access and inclusion are:
- 1-19 Torrington Place - accessible, centrally bookable teaching space
- Wilkins Terrace and the Lower Refectory - a new, accessible and navigable space at the heart of campus
- The Bloomsbury Theatre - due to re-open in early 2019
- 22 Gordon Street