The Building Regulations set out the legal requirements in Ireland for the construction of new buildings (including houses), extensions to existing buildings as well as for material alterations and certain material changes of use to existing buildings. The related Technical Guidance Documents (Parts A - M respectively) provide technical guidance on how to comply with the regulations in practical terms. Where works are carried out in accordance with the relevant technical guidance, such works are considered to be, prima facie, in compliance with the relevant regulation(s). Technical Guidance Documents are free to view/download on my Department's website at the link below: - https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/building-standards/tgd-part-d-materials-and-workmanship/Technical-guidance-documents.
In this context, the Building Regulations (Part M Amendment) Regulations 2010, which came into effect on 1 January 2012, set out the minimum statutory requirements that a building must achieve in respect of access. The accompanying Technical Guidance Document M – Access and Use (2010) provides guidance on how to comply the requirements.
The requirements of Part M aim to ensure that regardless of age, size or disability:
- new buildings other than dwellings are accessible and usable;
- extensions to existing buildings other than dwellings are, where practicable, accessible and useable;
- material alterations to existing buildings other than dwellings increase the accessibility and usability of existing buildings, where practicable;
- certain changes of use to existing buildings other than dwellings increase the accessibility and usability of existing buildings where practicable; and
- new dwellings are visitable.
The objective in the case of the provision of sanitary facilities in buildings other than dwellings is to provide independently accessible facilities that meet the needs of people with a wide range of abilities. Technical Guidance Document M gives detailed guidance on both the provision and the design of sanitary facilities. Buildings (other than dwellings), with a net floor area per floor greater than 200 m2 must provide a wheelchair accessible unisex WC with minimum turning space of 1800 mm x 1800 mm. The general WC room size to accommodate this turning space would be in the order of 1800 mm (min) x 2500 mm (min).
Part M of the Building Regulations aims to foster an inclusive approach to the design and construction of the built environment. While the Part M requirements may be regarded as a statutory minimum level of provision, the accompanying technical guidance encourages building owners and designers to have regard to the design philosophy of universal design and to consider making additional provisions where practicable and appropriate.
Guidance on how to design, build and manage buildings and spaces so that they can be readily accessed and used by everyone, regardless of age, size, ability or disability is available in 'Building for Everyone, A Universal Design Approach', a National Disability Authority (NDA) publication, which may be accessed at www.nda.ie.
The Building Regulations, including Part M requirements, are subject to ongoing review in the interests of safety and the well-being of persons in the built environment and to ensure that due regard is taken of changes in construction techniques, technological progress and innovation.