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Inclusive and Sustainable Design in the Built Environment: Regulation or Human-Centred?

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It seems to take a major tragedy to bring about changes in building practice and regulations, particularly in the case of social housing. A gas explosion at the high-rise Ronan Point in East London in 1968 in which four people died led to significant changes in building regulations. Eight years after the 2009 Lakanal House fire in south east London, where six people died, the local council admitted that it had failed to address fire risks. Both were the result of failure to comply with building and fire regulations and of serious weaknesses in those regulations. The Grenfell Tower tragedy is no different. Following that disastrous fire in June 2017, attention also turned to environmental and 'green targets' and the widely installed cladding used to improve thermal and aesthetic conditions, which many blamed for the rapid spread of fire, leading to the removal of similar cladding from hundreds of tower blocks across the UK. Reliance on building regulations and environmental standards has been the prime mechanism by which design quality, safety and sustainability are promoted in the built environment. This extends to accessibility standards designed to achieve more inclusive design for disabled users and residents. However, professional guidance and standards have produced a fragmented system, with the client-design-construction-maintenance-occupier chain stretched by arms-length housing management and contractor-led design operation, leaving the architect low down in the decision-making and power relationship, and residents largely absent from the design and delivery processes. This article considers the evolution of inclusive design and parallels in the built environment. These design approaches are contrasted with the highly codified basis for sustainable design which has looked to technological and material solutions to environmental performance, but less so, to human experience, needs and agency.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2018

More about this publication?
  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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