How Building Regulation Part M Enhances Accessibility

How Building Regulation Part M Enhances Accessibility Building Regulations

More than 10 million people in the UK live with a disability, which is why access requirements for new homes were introduced to Building Regulations. Homes need to be adaptable, accessible and suitable for individuals living with any sort of disability and the UK.  

Building Regulations M focuses specifically on access and the use of a building, which not only applies to wheelchair users, but also to anyone with limited mobility as well as anyone who uses wheeled devices or prams. 

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What is Building Regulations Part M or Approved Document M?

Building Regulations Part M, or Approved Document M, is a set of regulations in England that ensures buildings are accessible to and usable by people of all abilities, including those with disabilities. The regulation covers dwellings, public buildings, and workplaces.

It applies to all new buildings and to major alterations to existing buildings and focuses on ensuring that buildings are accessible and usable for everyone, regardless of their physical abilities. The “M” in Part M stands for “mobility,” underscoring its emphasis on promoting accessibility.

Part M serves as a comprehensive guide for architects, builders, and designers, providing essential guidelines and standards to follow when planning and constructing buildings. Its overarching goal is to eliminate physical barriers, making spaces accessible to everyone.

Accessibility has an important role to play in sustainability. Sustainable design involves creating buildings that are environmentally friendly and that meet the needs of the people who use them. Accessibility is an important part of sustainable design because it ensures that everyone can use a building, regardless of their ability.

How does Building Regulation Part M enhance accessibility?

Part M requires buildings to be designed and constructed in a way that makes them accessible to people with disabilities. This includes features such as: 

  • Minimum Door Width: Part M outlines specific requirements for door widths to ensure that individuals using wheelchairs or mobility aids can comfortably access buildings. The minimum door width as per building regulations is 800mm.
  • External Door Sizes: For external doors, Part M specifies particular dimensions to facilitate easy access for everyone. Compliance with external door sizes building regulations is essential to meet accessibility standards.
  • Ramps: To ensure smooth transitions between levels, Part M provides guidelines for the construction of ramps, including ramp gradient building regs. These regulations ensure that ramps are not too steep, making them safe and convenient for all users.
  • Stairs: Part M also covers stair design, emphasising factors like handrail placement and step dimensions to make staircases accessible to everyone.
  • Accessible WC: For commercial and public buildings, Part M includes provisions for accessible toilets, ensuring they meet the necessary dimensions and requirements.

These are just a few examples of the way Part M promotes accessibility in building design. It goes beyond the physical aspects, considering factors like lighting, signage, and colour contrast to create a holistic and inclusive environment.

What are the classifications and categories within Building Regulations Part M?

Part M classifies buildings into three categories:

  • Category 1: Visitable buildings: These are buildings that are accessible to people who are able to walk short distances and climb stairs. Category 1 requires a level or ramped approach to the entrance, an entrance door with a clear opening width of 775mm, an accessible WC on the entrance level, and services and controls within reach of people in wheelchairs. Handrails are not required for ramps in Category 1. This is good news for most architects, as it simplifies the design. However, if the site is steeply sloping and needs steps, then handrails are required on one side. The steps should also have a comfortable pitch, with risers between 75mm and 150mm high and goings of at least 280mm. 
  • Category 2: Accessible and adaptable buildings: These are buildings that are accessible to people who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids. They can also be adapted to meet the needs of people with other disabilities. Category 2 has to meet the requirements of Category 1, be a wheelchair accessible dwelling throughout, have a wheelchair accessible kitchen and bathroom, and must be adaptable so that it can be modified to meet the changing needs of the occupants.
  • Category 3: Wheelchair user buildings: These are buildings that are designed specifically for people who use wheelchairs. They have wider doorways, lower counters, and other features that make them easier to use, and a kitchen and bathroom that are specially designed for wheelchair users.

The requirements of each category become more stringent as the category number increases. Category 1 is the least demanding, while Category 3 is the most demanding.

Part M is further divided in several classifications, each serving a specific purpose in promoting accessibility:

  • Part M1 deals with the provision of access and use of buildings, ensuring that entrances, common areas, and sanitary facilities are accessible.
  • Part M2 focuses on access to and use of dwellings, specifying requirements for the design and construction of accessible homes.
  • Part M3 addresses sanitary accommodation in buildings, ensuring that accessible toilets and changing facilities are available when needed.
  • Part M4 pertains to access to extensions to buildings, ensuring that any extensions maintain accessibility standards.
  • Part M4(2) specifically deals with student accommodations, ensuring they meet the necessary accessibility requirements.
  • Part M5 focuses on access to and use of buildings other than dwellings, covering a wide range of non-residential spaces.
  • Part M6 outlines requirements for accessible and adaptable dwellings, ensuring that homes can adapt to the changing needs of occupants.

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Why building regulation Part M is essential for inclusive design

Inclusive design is the practice of designing products and environments to be accessible to everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or disability. Part M is essential for inclusive design because it sets out the minimum requirements for accessibility. By following the requirements of Part M, designers can create buildings that are accessible to everyone and that promote inclusion.

Building Regulation Part M is not just a legal requirement; it’s a foundation for inclusive design. Embracing its principles ensures that architectural projects are accessible to all, irrespective of their physical abilities. At WindsorPatania, we believe that design should be a universal language that welcomes everyone. 

Our commitment to Part M is a testament to our dedication to creating spaces that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also socially responsible.

Applications of building regulation Part M across different property types

Part M applies to all new buildings and to major alterations to existing buildings. It is applicable to a wide range of property types, including:

How does part M apply to residential buildings?

Part M applies to all new residential buildings, including houses, flats, and bungalows. It also applies to major alterations to existing residential buildings. The requirements of Part M are more stringent for wheelchair user buildings than for visitable or accessible and adaptable buildings:

  • Internal Door Width: Part M mandates a minimum internal door width of 750mm for internal doors. This ensures that residents with mobility challenges can comfortably navigate within their homes.
  • Accessible WC: Residential properties need to include accessible bathrooms or WC facilities, complying with the Part M accessible WC standards. These facilities ensure that residents can maintain their independence within their homes.
  • Stairs: In homes, stairs must meet the Part M guidelines to ensure safety and accessibility. Handrails and proper step dimensions are essential components of this compliance.
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How does Part M apply to commercial buildings?

Part M applies to all new commercial buildings, including offices, shops, restaurants, and hotels. It also applies to major alterations to existing commercial buildings. The requirements of Part M are more stringent for wheelchair user buildings than for visitable or accessible and adaptable buildings:

  • Building Regulations Lift Requirements: Commercial buildings often require elevators to ensure access to different levels, which must comply with Part M guidelines.
  • Ramps: If a building uses ramps for access, they must adhere to building regulations ramps standards, including ramp gradient building regs.
  • Accessible Toilets: Commercial spaces must have accessible toilets, meeting the disabled toilet dimensions UK Part M standards.

The impact of Building Regulation Part M on HMO Properties

HMO properties (houses in multiple occupation) are rented out to three or more unrelated people. Part M applies to all new HMO properties and to major alterations to existing HMO properties. The requirements of Part M are more stringent for wheelchair user HMO properties than for other types of HMO properties. Meeting Part M standards in HMO properties includes considerations for communal areas, bedroom sizes, and access points to accommodate individuals with disabilities.

Practical Implementations of Building Regulation Part M

Here are some practical implementations of Building Regulation Part M:

  • Internal doors: Internal doors should be at least 775 mm wide to allow wheelchair users to pass through comfortably.
  • WCs and toilets: WCs and toilets should be accessible to people with disabilities. This includes having a level access entrance, enough space for a wheelchair to manoeuvre, and grab rails.
  • Stairs: Stairs should have a rise of no more than 170mm and a going of no less than 220mm. They should also have handrails on both sides.
  • Ramps: Ramps should have a gradient of no more than 1:12. They should also have handrails on both sides.

Building Regulations Part M Summarised

Building Regulations Part M is a set of regulations that set out the requirements for access to and use of buildings in England and Wales. It applies to all new buildings and to major alterations to existing buildings. The aim of Part M is to make buildings accessible to everyone, regardless of their disability or mobility impairment.

Choose WindsorPatania for fully accessible and Part M compliant design solutions

At WindsorPatania, we take pride in our commitment to merging English heritage with Italian design, creating beautiful and environmentally responsible buildings and infrastructure. Our mission is to provide architectural solutions that seamlessly blend traditional craftsmanship with contemporary aesthetics, without compromising on sustainability or inclusivity. A cornerstone of our design philosophy is compliance with Building Regulations Part M, also known as Approved Document M. 

We have years of experience working with developers on innovative new build designs, from conducting early feasibility studies all the way to successful completion. and are equally happy to work with private homeowners who want to build a new home or retrofit their existing home to become more accessible. As co-founder Ryan Windsor says, our focus for both private and commercial clients is to create “enjoyable and comfortable spaces, but ideally doing so while adding value to the property.” 

If you are interested in developing a build-to-rent property of your own, book a free discovery call with us to discuss your project.

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