Venice Charter

Stop Press ! … ISO 21542 on Accessibility-for-All Published !!

2012-03-25:  No news about this momentous development, yet, on the International Design and Disability Networks … (why is that ? – are they all asleep out there ?) … but International Standard  ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility and Usability of the Built Environment’  was finally published by the International Standards Organization (ISO) in December 2011 !   Even ISO, and national standards organizations, have been slow with an official notification.

This International Standard now provides building users, architects, designers, engineers, builders, building owners and managers, manufacturers, policy makers and legislators with the requirements and recommendations to create a Sustainable Built Environment which is Accessible.

The First Edition of ISO 21542, dated 2011-12-15, represents an agreement reached by strong consensus between different countries all over the world … an agreement patiently constructed and pieced together by a small, dedicated international group of Accessibility Experts.  As one of those experts, I am tremendously relieved that this main task has been accomplished … but the process must continue … there are still errors in the document … and the fire safety texts must be expanded.

This is also an agreement which signals that uniform implementation of the main provisions (accessibility-related) in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) can commence across the globe, not just in the developed economic regions.

The purpose of this International Standard is to define how the built environment … in particular, public buildings … should be designed, constructed and managed to enable people to approach, enter, use, egress from and evacuate a building independently, in an equitable and dignified manner and to the greatest extent possible.

Colour image showing an Accessible Fire Evacuation Route Sign. From now on, Building Users should expect that these routes will be Accessible-for-All, throughout their full extent, until they reach a Place of Safety which is remote from the Building. Otherwise, they will be able to find accommodation in a suitable Area of Rescue Assistance along the route. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing an Accessible Fire Evacuation Route Sign. From now on, Building Users should expect that these routes will be Accessible-for-All, throughout their full extent, until they reach a Place of Safety which is remote from the Building. Otherwise, they will be able to find accommodation in a suitable Area of Rescue Assistance along the route. Click to enlarge.

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A new international understanding of ‘Building Accessibility’ is hereby established … ‘Access’ (approach, entry and use) can no longer be divorced from ‘Egress’ (in the normal course of events) and ‘Evacuation’ (in the event of an emergency).

The concept of ‘Access’, in isolation, and the role of the ‘Access Consultant’ are, therefore, outdated and obsolete !   And use of the word ‘Escape’, in any context, is to be firmly and rigorously discouraged !!

The intention of this International Standard is to meet the needs of the majority of people.  This goal is achieved by agreement on minimum standards of accessibility and usability which are generally accepted to accommodate diversities of age and the human condition.

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In future … proper emphasis must be placed on Real and Effective Implementation of Accessibility-for-All in the built environment … to meet the needs of real people in all of our communities.

In the past … too many scarce human resources have been diverted into pointless discussions and arguments about accessibility design philosophies.  And, particularly in Europe, we have been far too fond of ‘talk’, instead of ‘action’ !   No more !!

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ISO 21542 : 2011  applies to new and existing buildings.

IF this Standard’s requirements and recommendations are taken into consideration during the earliest stages of New Building Design … the costs of providing satisfactory accessibility and usability in a building will be minimal.

Yes, there are problems with improving the accessibility performance of Existing Buildings … just as there are problems, for example, with improving their energy performance.  However … creativity, design flexibility, and an in-depth understanding of the principles of Accessibility-for-All … will ensure that the functional requirements of this Standard are properly met.

Mindful of the  1964 Venice Charter  and other similar international instruments … accessibility must also be facilitated in Existing Buildings of Historical, Architectural and Cultural Importance.  In such cases, it will be necessary for national authorities having jurisdiction to allow some relaxation of the requirements in this International Standard … as well as to proactively recommend appropriate alternative accessibility measures.

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This new approach to Accessibility-for-All in the Built Environment … as set down in ISO 21542 … was directly informed by Preamble Paragraph (g) and Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).

At the time of writing … the UN CRPD has been ratified by the European Union (EU) and 109 Other Countries.

An Important Note for Parties to the Convention which is entirely outside the scope of ISO 21542, and standardization generally … but very relevant to the implementation, for example, of Article 11 at national level in the ratifying Countries and EU Member States …

UN CRPD  Article 12 – Equal Recognition Before The Law

1.   States Parties reaffirm that persons with disabilities have the right to recognition everywhere as persons before the law.

2.   States Parties shall recognize that persons with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life.

3.   States Parties shall take appropriate measures to provide access by persons with disabilities to the support they may require in exercising their legal capacity.

4.   States Parties shall ensure that all measures that relate to the exercise of legal capacity provide for appropriate and effective safeguards to prevent abuse in accordance with international human rights law.  Such safeguards shall ensure that measures relating to the exercise of legal capacity respect the rights, will and preferences of the person, are free of conflict of interest and undue influence, are proportional and tailored to the person’s circumstances, apply for the shortest time possible and are subject to regular review by a competent, independent and impartial authority or judicial body.  The safeguards shall be proportional to the degree to which such measures affect the person’s rights and interests.

5.   Subject to the provisions of this article, States Parties shall take all appropriate and effective measures to ensure the equal right of persons with disabilities to own or inherit property, to control their own financial affairs and to have equal access to bank loans, mortgages and other forms of financial credit, and shall ensure that persons with disabilities are not arbitrarily deprived of their property.

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ISO 21542 : 2011  is available from the International Standards Organization (ISO) at … www.iso.org/

The Official Abstract on the ISO WebSite states …

ISO 21542 : 2011  specifies a range of requirements and recommendations for many of the elements of construction, assemblies, components and fittings which comprise the built environment.  These requirements relate to the constructional aspects of access to buildings, to circulation within buildings, to egress from buildings in the normal course of events and evacuation in the event of an emergency.  It also deals with aspects of accessibility management in buildings.

ISO 21542 : 2011  contains provisions with respect to features in the external environment directly concerned with access to a building or group of buildings from the edge of the relevant site boundary or between such groups of buildings within a common site.  It does not deal with those elements of the external environment, such as public open spaces, whose function is self-contained and unrelated to the use of one specific building, nor does it deal with single-family dwellings, other than those circulation spaces and fittings that are common to two or more such dwellings.

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Buildings of Historical, Architectural & Cultural Importance !

2009-10-08:  Deeply interested … and ‘luuuving’ … a hands-on and direct involvement in the Sustainable Restoration of Buildings which are of Historical, Architectural or Cultural Importance … or even those buildings which are not so important … I am deeply frustrated and angry when I look around at what has happened … and continues to happen … in Ireland … horrible, damaging interventions and alterations of all kinds … too many of which cannot be undone.

Certain guru-like organizations and individuals must be robustly challenged !

Yes … in everyday practice, there are pressures concerning an improvement of energy performance (BER Certificates !) … an improvement of accessibility performance for people with activity limitations (2001 WHO ICF) … an improvement of fire safety performance, etc., etc. … and, in the next few short years, adaptation to climate change will require serious attention.

BUT – BUT – BUT … in dealing with these buildings (a priceless heritage for our children, and their children, which cannot be replaced !) … some absolutely core principles must influence the minds of decision-makers in client and construction organizations, national authorities having jurisdiction, regulators … and, most importantly, the minds and souls of architects and engineers.  (I am wondering … do engineers have souls ?)

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ICOMOSInternational Council on Monuments & Sites / Conseil International des Monuments et des Sites – works for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage places and is the only global, non-governmental organization of its kind.  It is dedicated to promoting the application of theory, methodology, and scientific techniques to the conservation of the architectural and archaeological heritage.  Its work is based on the principles enshrined in the 1964 International Charter on the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites (Venice Charter).

From practical experience, I have found the 16 Principles of the 1964 Venice Charter to be enormously helpful …

ARTICLE 1    The concept of an historic monument embraces not only the single architectural work but also the urban or rural setting in which is found the evidence of a particular civilization, a significant development or an historic event.  This applies not only to great works of art but also to more modest works of the past which have acquired cultural significance with the passing of time.

ARTICLE 2    The conservation and restoration of monuments must have recourse to all the sciences and techniques which can contribute to the study and safeguarding of the architectural heritage.

ARTICLE 3    The intention in conserving and restoring monuments is to safeguard them no less as works of art than as historical evidence.

ARTICLE 4    It is essential to the conservation of monuments that they be maintained on a permanent basis.

ARTICLE 5    The conservation of monuments is always facilitated by making use of them for some socially useful purpose.  Such use is therefore desirable but it must not change the lay-out or decoration of the building.  It is within these limits only that modifications demanded by a change of function should be envisaged and may be permitted.

ARTICLE 6    The conservation of a monument implies preserving a setting which is not out of scale.  Wherever the traditional setting exists, it must be kept.  No new construction, demolition or modification which would alter the relations of mass and colour must be allowed.

ARTICLE 7    A monument is inseparable from the history to which it bears witness and from the setting in which it occurs.  The moving of all or part of a monument cannot be allowed except where the safeguarding of that monument demands it or where it is justified by national or international interest of paramount importance.

ARTICLE 8    Items of sculpture, painting or decoration which form an integral part of a monument may only be removed from it if this is the sole means of ensuring their preservation.

ARTICLE 9    The process of restoration is a highly specialized operation.  Its aim is to preserve and reveal the aesthetic and historic value of the monument and is based on respect for original material and authentic documents.  It must stop at the point where conjecture begins, and in this case moreover any extra work which is indispensable must be distinct from the architectural composition and must bear a contemporary stamp.  The restoration in any case must be preceded and followed by an archaeological and historical study of the monument.

ARTICLE 10    Where traditional techniques prove inadequate, the consolidation of a monument can be achieved by the use of any modem technique for conservation and construction, the efficacy of which has been shown by scientific data and proved by experience.

ARTICLE 11    The valid contributions of all periods to the building of a monument must be respected, since unity of style is not the aim of a restoration.  When a building includes the superimposed work of different periods, the revealing of the underlying state can only be justified in exceptional circumstances and when what is removed is of little interest and the material which is brought to light is of great historical, archaeological or aesthetic value, and its state of preservation good enough to justify the action.  Evaluation of the importance of the elements involved and the decision as to what may be destroyed cannot rest solely on the individual in charge of the work.

ARTICLE 12    Replacements of missing parts must integrate harmoniously with the whole, but at the same time must be distinguishable from the original so that restoration does not falsify the artistic or historic evidence.

ARTICLE 13    Additions cannot be allowed except in so far as they do not detract from the interesting parts of the building, its traditional setting, the balance of its composition and its relation with its surroundings.

ARTICLE 14    The sites of monuments must be the object of special care in order to safeguard their integrity and ensure that they are cleared and presented in a seemly manner.  The work of conservation and restoration carried out in such places should be inspired by the principles set forth in the foregoing articles.

ARTICLE 15    Excavations should be carried out in accordance with scientific standards and the recommendation defining international principles to be applied in the case of archaeological excavation adopted by UNESCO in 1956.

Ruins must be maintained and measures necessary for the permanent conservation and protection of architectural features and of objects discovered must be taken.  Furthermore, every means must be taken to facilitate the understanding of the monument and to reveal it without ever distorting its meaning.

All reconstruction work should however be ruled out ‘a priori’.  Only anastylosis, that is to say, the reassembling of existing but dismembered parts can be permitted.  The material used for integration should always be recognizable and its use should be the least that will ensure the conservation of a monument and the reinstatement of its form.

ARTICLE 16    In all works of preservation, restoration or excavation, there should always be precise documentation in the form of analytical and critical reports, illustrated with drawings and photographs.  Every stage of the work of clearing, consolidation, rearrangement and integration, as well as technical and formal features identified during the course of the work, should be included.  This record should be placed in the archives of a public institution and made available to research workers.  It is recommended that the report should be published.

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Note on BER Certificates for Historical Buildings in Ireland

Unless and until that magnificent marketing and public relations firm … Energy Ireland (SEAI) … can openly show that the DEAP Software has been properly modified to handle buildings of historical, architectural or cultural importance … and this modification is fully transparent … Building Energy Rating (BER) Certification for these building types must be put on hold.

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