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How building users act on decisions

The built environment should be designed and constructed to make movement between locations as easy as possible with the minimum of effort.

Movement within the building

In general, everyone will want to take the most direct and easiest route to their destination.

Some building users will be restricted by a lack of stamina or issues relating to joint movement. Others may require the use of a walking aid or a wheelchair.

Changes in surface level such as steps and ramps and inappropriate surface finishes may present significant problems to a range of users.

Design considerations

  • Ensure that paths of travel between destinations and facilities are direct and require as little effort as possible.
  • Wherever possible, design all routes to be level, with appropriate width and headroom. 
  • Avoid including steps or ramps in a design wherever possible.
  • Ensure gradients of ramps and the pitch of stairs are as low as possible, and changes in level restricted.
  • Provide equivalent alternatives where step free routes are not possible. 
  • Co-locate options to change level (e.g. lifts, ramps, and stairs).
  • Provide handrails for support and balance on both sides of all ramps and stairs, and where they are needed because of the environment.
  • Ensure walking surfaces are even, firm and slip-resistant with low rolling resistance for wheelchair users.
  • Provide opportunities to rest in appropriate locations.
  • Ensure surfaces against which someone might stumble or fall limit abrasion.
  • Ensure public spaces are well ventilated with controlled temperature and humidity.
  • Avoid the use of materials which may have high emission levels.

Building Code requirement

Building Code clause D1 Access routes:

D1.3.1 Access routes shall enable people to: (a) safely and easily approach the main entrance of buildings from the apron or construction edge of a building, (b) enter buildings, (c)move into spaces within buildings by such means as corridors, doors, stairs, ramps and lifts.

Features, fixtures and fittings

Features, fixtures and fittings should be designed and installed to enable them to be approached, reached and used easily.

Suitable space is required for building users (including wheelchair and mobility scooter users, parents with double buggies and those with luggage) to approach a selected feature and operate it easily without inconvenience.

Some users may have hand, arm or dexterity impairments which make gripping objects, twisting and turning them, or using small controls very difficult. A simple rule is that if an element requires a physical input it should be able to be operated by a clenched fist and not require the use of both hands.

Generally it is easier for most building users to push a component such as a door rather than pull it towards them.

Door closers can cause significant problems. They are often set at too high an operating force which becomes higher still if they are not maintained.

Having elements within easy reach is particularly important to avoid people over-balancing. For some wheelchair users, impaired balance makes leaning forward difficult.

Where a feature requires two-way communication, a visual means of response will enable those with speech or hearing impairments to operate the system.

Design considerations

  • Ensure suitable approach routes and spaces are available to elements of the built environment that require interaction from a building user.
  • Wherever possible, ensure elements such as controls, toilet flushes, and door handles can be operated with a clenched fist, wrist or elbow.
  • Provide handrails and elements designed to give support that can be easily grasped without the hand slipping.
  • Position components and controls within easy reach of all users to prevent over-balancing.
  • Ensure all fixtures and fittings are operable with one hand (whether right or left).
  • Avoid controls and fittings that need to be turned or twisted.
  • Remove unnecessary doors and door closers.
  • Maintain required door closers at the lowest closing force possible.
  • Consider the use of automatic sliding doors where doors are required to resist wind forces.
  • Counter-balance vertical sliding sash windows to reduce the lifting force necessary.

Building Code requirement

Building Code clause D1 Access routes:

D1.3.4 An accessible route, in addition to the requirement of Clause D1.3.3, shall: (f) have doors and related hardware which are easily used.

This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: