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Top 10 Violations of Accessibility Requirements Post Occupancy Caused by Untrained O&M Staff

Our accessibility consultants work with design and construction teams to ensure that facilities are compliant with the architectural accessibility requirements of applicable laws and codes. But once the building is operational, and management and maintenance is turned over to an entity not involved in the design and construction process, unintentional violations of accessibility requirements often crop up post occupancy.

It’s not uncommon for litigation to result from observations of violations made by testers that are caused by unknowing operations and maintenance staff.

Once a facility is complaint with accessible design and construction requirements, it must remain so for its life, so it’s important for everyone to understand how to maintain compliance.

Here are some of the more common violations of accessibility requirements that occur post occupancy: (more…)

NYC Building Energy Efficiency Letter Grades: What Owners & Property Managers Need to Know

New York City buildings over 25,000 square feet must display a Building Energy Efficiency Rating Label, as required by Local Law 33 of 2018 and Local Law 95 of 2019.

Each year, buildings are given new energy efficiency grades based on benchmarking data from the previous calendar year.

New labels are available to building owners every year on October 1. Labels must be downloaded and posted in the lobby of each building by October 31. Failure to display the label by this deadline will result in a violation from the Department of Buildings and fine of $1,250 for applicable buildings.

Keep reading to get answers to all your questions about New York City’s building energy efficiency letter grades and labels from our energy experts. (more…)

5 Misconceptions About Fair Housing Act (FHA) Design and Construction Compliance

“If I comply with the building code, then I comply with the Fair Housing Act.” “Everything is adaptable, so it doesn’t need to work on day one, right?” Accessibility consultants have heard all types of misconceptions about the Fair Housing Act (FHA). If followed, these assumptions can result in noncompliance with the design and construction requirements of the FHA.

Here are five of the most common misconceptions about the FHA, explained.

This blog post was originally published on September 30, 2019. It has been reviewed and updated to reflect the current design and construction requirements of the FHA.

Building Code

Fair Housing Act Design Manual cover.

Misconception #1: Following the accessibility requirements of the building code will satisfy the design and construction requirements of the FHA.

Not true. Following the accessibility requirements of the building code may not always satisfy the design and construction requirements of the FHA.

Building codes and federal laws are mutually exclusive; a building department or building official is responsible for ensuring compliance with the code—not the law. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is responsible for enforcement of the FHA—not building codes. Meeting the requirements of one may not always satisfy the requirements of the other.

There is only one code, i.e., the International Building Code (IBC), that is a HUD-approved ”safe harbor” for compliance with the design and construction requirements of the FHA. Editions of the code after 2018 are not yet approved by HUD as meeting the requirements of the FHA. (more…)

Accessibility Tech Notes: Coworking Spaces in Multifamily Buildings

A floor plan of a coworking space for multifamily buildings.The rise in remote and hybrid work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has created a demand for spaces in multifamily buildings where residents can work from home. Developers are seeking to meet this demand by providing office and coworking areas as an additional amenity in residential buildings. In these coworking spaces, what accessible design requirements apply?

Accessible Coworking Spaces

Coworking spaces are a valuable amenity for building residents who prefer to work from home, but want separate environments for their professional and personal lives. Designing communal areas that are accessible to all individuals ensures that these spaces can be used to their fullest potential.

As an amenity provided to residents, coworking spaces in multifamily buildings must be designed to provide equitable access for people with disabilities, many of whom have seen a pronounced benefit because of the ability to work remotely. (more…)

The Future of Inclusive Design: How We Can Advance Equity Through Building Design

As architects, building designers, and members of project teams, we are in a unique position to advance equity and inclusion in our world. It is our responsibility to design buildings that support and give opportunities to historically underserved groups.

As we embark on a new year, concepts of equity and inclusion are prominent throughout the field of architecture. The U.S. Green Building Council recently affirmed that equity will remain a key focus at this year’s Greenbuild International Conference, and the WELL Equity Rating continues to gain traction across our industry.

At SWA, we prioritize equity and inclusion in both our company values and strategic vision as well as in our Inclusive Design discipline. We made an announcement not long ago that our Accessibility team is shifting away from Universal Design towards Inclusive Design to more effectively drive equity in the built environment. In our work with Inclusive Design strategies, we have examined how they must evolve to prioritize all building occupants and the surrounding community at each stage in the design process.

Today we are thrilled to have a clearer vision for how we aim to accomplish this goal. (more…)

What is Co-Design, and How Does it Help Advance Equity Through Building Design?

Project teams may set out to design and construct a building that supports the needs of its occupants and the community as a whole. However, the design process does not typically involve examining the lived experiences of future occupants or the surrounding community.

This missing piece is called co-design, and it’s a crucial practice for creating healthy, safe, and equitable buildings.

Co-design is gaining traction as more project teams prioritize social equity and inclusion as part of their project goals. When community members and future occupants that represent diverse perspectives and lived experiences are part of the design process, the finished building is more likely to support the needs of building occupants.

Read on to learn how project teams are successfully implementing co-design to advance equity through building design. (more…)

Understanding Accessibility: Notable Changes in the 2022 New York City Building Code

As of November 7, 2022, the 2022 edition of the New York City Building Code is now in effect. As designers begin to work with the updated code, our accessibility consultants have been getting a lot of questions about what has changed from the requirements in the 2014 edition of the code.

Cover of the New York City Building Code.While it is important to read through the new code in its entirety to ensure compliance with all updated criteria, we have compiled a list of some changes related to accessibility that designers should be aware of, below.

SECTION BC 1106: Parking and Passenger Loading Facilities

8 Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

While the 2014 edition of the code was silent on specific requirements for electric vehicle parking, the 2022 edition provides scoping and technical criteria for charging stations and the parking spaces serving those stations. Where EV charging is provided for common use, at least 5%, but no less than one of each type of EV station must be accessible. (more…)

Getting Ready for the 2024 IECC: The Requirements Proposed for Residential Buildings

Each state in the U.S. can adopt its own residential building code. States tend to use a specific edition of the IECC as their residential code (with the exception of California). And while 2022 is nearly over, only a few states have adopted the 2021 IECC.

However, several more states are likely to use the 2021 IECC given that under the Inflation Reduction Act, an additional $1 billion has been allocated to support jurisdictions in adopting the 2021 IECC or its zero-energy appendices.

Due to its lack of country-wide adoption, most building professionals might not be familiar with the 2021 IECC as it compares to the current codes in the states where they work. For example, there are significant increases in the minimum insulation requirements, changes to the air leakage test thresholds, and a new section, R408, with requirements to achieve “additional efficiency” through the selection of “packages.”

(more…)

Sustainable Buildings Are Healthy Buildings: How to Design and Maintain a Healthy Built Environment

What is a sustainable building? We know it must be an energy-efficient, high-performance building and emit as little carbon as possible to protect the environment. But a sustainable building must also be a healthy building that protects people and communities.

A building can’t be considered sustainable if it doesn’t sustain the physical and mental health of all its intended occupants and sustain the community around it.

Healthy buildings require a holistic approach that accounts for how every building material, system, and technology affects the wellbeing of occupants.

This is an important topic at SWA, so we asked our interns to explore it! They talked to our experienced building systems, sustainability, and Passive House consultants and put together this blog post as a resource on designing and maintaining a healthy built environment.

Keep reading to learn more about the following considerations for healthy buildings:

  1. Occupant comfort and productivity
  2. Optimal indoor air quality (IAQ)
  3. Ventilation system upgrades in existing buildings
  4. Healthy building certifications (Fitwel, WELL, etc.)
  5. Building operations and maintenance staff training

(more…)

Top 10 Accessible Design Oversights: Hotels

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed more than 30 years ago, but architects and designers still struggle with misconceptions about complying with the accessible design and construction requirements included in the ADA.

Our accessibility team works on a wide variety of projects across the country to ensure that buildings are designed to comply with the ADA (and other regulatory and building code requirements). Each project comes with its own unique set of challenges, and it is common for even our most experienced accessibility consultants to encounter a design problem we have never seen before.

However, there are design issues that we see again and again and again; these common accessibility oversights are not difficult to avoid if they’re accounted for early enough in the design process.

In this post, we explain how to avoid the top 10 accessible design mistakes that our consultants find in…hotels.

This blog post was originally published on August 08, 2019. It was updated on October 20, 2022 to ensure that the guidance and design requirements provided are up to date. (more…)

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