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 following link:
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 with 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.
Section 1.5. of Part M provides guidance on ensuring that facilities such as lecture/conference facilities in hotels or offices, educational buildings, theatres, cinemas, sports facilities in stadia and sports centres are accessible to and useable for people with a wide range of abilities, e.g. people with vision or hearing impairment, people with intellectual disabilities, people with mental impairment, ambulant disabled people, wheelchair users and people with small children (in buggies).
In regard to lighting in such facilities, Part M provides that rows and seats should be clearly numbered and well lit to assist people with vision impairment.
In regard to handrails, Part M provides that stepped access routes to raked seating areas should have handrails where there is an adjacent wall. Where steps lead to seating, a handrail is needed only on the wall side, so as not to obstruct access to the seating.
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.