Sweeney Architects

Get up to speed on regulations

I will now look at building regulations in more detail that are specific to houses. I will outline some of the items in Part M of the regulations which deal with access for people with disabilities.

Essentially Part M is to guarantee that all dwellings are accessible for people with disabilities. Part M of the regulations apply to all works commencing after 1st January 2001 and implies that all dwellings should be designed and built so that people with disabilities can safely and without any problems approach and gain access to a house via level or a sloped ramp, that there should be a WC provided at entry level and finally that there is enough space for circulation within the property.

In terms of approaching a dwelling, at least one entrance on the boundary of the dwelling plot should have a minimum clear opening of 80cm, preferably the main entrance. There should also be a clear area of at least 1.2 meters x 1.2 meters deep in front of the entrance.

The approach to this entrance should be suitable for use by a wheelchair user from the boundary of the plot and if this is not possible for a wheelchair user to conveniently alight from a vehicle. In addition it should have a firm surface, a clear and unobstructed width of at least 90cm or 3 meters where it forms part on an on-site driveway to allow adequate unobstructed width at parked cars.

The access into the building itself should have a minimum width for a wheelchair accessible access entrance of 77.5 cm and should be level with a maximum threshold of 1.5cm. If there are any doorbells/knockers or otherwise they should be located at a height of between 90cm and 120cm above floor level.

In terms of the toilet/bathroom this should be at entry level where it can be accessed from the entrance. Also at least one habitable room should be accessible without the need to negotiate steps. A clear space of at least 75cm x 120cm accessible by a wheelchair user, should be available adjacent to the WC and the overall design of the bathroom should be in a way that a wheelchair can be fully contained within the room with the door closed.

Finally in terms of circulation within the property, there should not be any stepped level through-doors or corridors to any habitable rooms. If there is a stepped level, there should be at least one room and toilet with free and unobstructed access.

Corridors need to have a minimum unobstructed width of at least 90cm, and if there are any obstructions, like a radiator, then there should be a minimum width of 75cm from the obstruction. All door handles and light switches should be located at between 90cm to 120cm above the floor.

All this and more information is contained in the National Disability Authority 2002 publication, ‘Building for everyone’, and it is available on their website.