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RIBA Publishes Inclusive Design Guide for the Built Environment

RIBA Publishes Inclusive Design Guide for the Built Environment
18 July 2023

The Royal Institute of British Architects has published new guidance to ensure that inclusion and accessibility are considered at every stage of the design and construction process.

Developed with design consultancy Motionspot, and with the support of Heathrow and Jane Simpson Access, the guidance has been created to address the fact that there has not been a single source of reference to embed inclusive design into programme delivery and that can be used by all built environment professionals across the RIBA Plan of Work.

Inclusive design seeks to create buildings and spaces that welcome everyone, regardless of age, sexual orientation, gender, health condition, disability, ethnicity, or religion.

It means considering the needs of people with physical, cognitive, and sensory impairments, including neurodivergence. Neurodivergence includes people with autism, ADHD, dementia, and a range of other sensory and/or information-processing differences.  Estimates suggest that around 1 in 7 people in the UK are neurodivergent in some form.


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RIBA’s new guidances assigns clear responsibilities and tasks to the different roles involved in a building project – including client, project management, design, construction, and facilities management teams. The workstream also includes an Inclusive Design Lead to provide support and expertise.


Why Inclusive Design?


The design of the built environment can include or exclude people, and by considering the widest range of human abilities and experiences in the way buildings are designed, it is hoped that everyone can experience the built environment with dignity and a sense of belonging.

RIBA also considers that designing inclusively is linked with sustainability. The UN Sustainable Development Goal, Number 11 is to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. BREEAM and WELL standards both refer to the importance of inclusive design in creating sustainable environments. The RIBA Sustainable Outcomes “Good Health and Wellbeing” (Outcome 6) and “Sustainable Communities and Social Value” (Outcome 7) include principles to “design spaces that are inclusive and universally accessible’ and ‘create inclusive places for community interaction”.

Inclusive Design Overlay Project Lead and Lead Overlay Author, Pareisse Wilson, who is also Inclusive Design Strategy Lead at Motionspot, said: “The biggest positive for me regarding this project is the fact it has been created in collaboration with industry, from landscape architects and engineers to project and facilities managers. Together these collaborators helped decide which roles to include and contributed to defining the inclusive design tasks they would undertake at each Work Stage. Throughout the journey over 100 built environment professionals have attended workshops or provided feedback on draft versions of the Overlay. This makes the Inclusive Design Overlay a truly inclusively designed framework.”

RIBA President Simon Allford added: “RIBA serves our members and society to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities, and a sustainable environment – and inclusion is at the heart of this. The Inclusive Design Overlay will help not only our members but other design professionals to support wider communities, placemaking, and buildings, by designing for everyone.”

The Inclusive Design Overlay to the RIBA Plan of Work can be downloaded here.

Picture: a photograph of four disabled people of colour gathered around a table during a meeting. One of the people is a wheelchair user. Image Credit: Disabled and Here

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 18 July 2023


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