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BCA champions inclusive living environments in Singapore

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

- The BCA will focus on improving the accessibility of Singapore's Central Business District for more inclusive workplaces
- The BCA Universal Design Mark certification scheme will be extended to Parks and Public Spaces

Singapore, 5 November 2014 - The Building and Construction Authority (the "BCA") has introduced new initiatives that will guide Singapore a step closer to realising an inclusive living environment. Mr Lee Yi Shyan, Senior Minister of State for National Development and Trade and Industry, who officially opened the inaugural Singapore Universal Design Week (the "Week") today, shared that the new initiatives will benefit people with different needs and abilities, as well as the elderly and families.

Focusing on Universal Design in the built environment, the BCA's new key initiatives are: 
a. improving the barrier-free accessibility of Singapore's Central Business District ("CBD" or the "District"); 
b. extending the BCA Universal Design Mark certification scheme to Parks and Public Spaces; and
c. training 400 professionals in Universal Design for the built environment by 2015.

Explaining the rationale for the new initiatives, BCA Chief Executive Officer Dr. John Keung said: "Universal Design can improve our living environments for ourselves as well as for future generations. Designing for inclusiveness will ensure that everyone can enjoy living, working, learning and playing in a user-friendly environment that takes into consideration their needs and abilities. This is why the BCA has stepped up as the lead public agency in Singapore to promote Universal Design and facilitate tripartite partnerships among public, people and private sectors working towards inclusive buildings and public spaces." Inclusive workplaces: Improving the accessibility of the Central Business District

Going forward, the BCA will focus on the CBD to encourage more owners of existing commercial buildings to tap on the Accessibility Fund and make their premises accessible. This is in line with the Government's push for more inclusive workplaces for older Singaporeans and persons with disabilities.

As assessed under the BCA's Accessibility Rating System (Annex A), it is found that out of 150 buildings in the CBD, about 70 of them - built before 1990 - lack barrier-free accessibility features for people on wheelchair or with mobility impairments. The BCA will work with owners of buildings there to improve barrier-free accessibility in the CBD.

Besides providing funding support to incentivise owners to make their existing building barrier-free, the BCA is also studying the feasibility of additional regulations to quicken the pace of improvements in implementing accessibility features for existing buildings.

Universal Design Mark for Parks and Public Spaces (Annex B)

From the current focus on buildings, the BCA will also extend its Universal Design Mark certification to parks and public spaces. With Universal Design criteria developed jointly by the BCA and the National Parks Board, the BCA Universal Design Mark for Parks and Public Spaces will raise the level of inclusiveness in the design of our landscape spaces in Singapore. This customised framework has the flexibility to be applied to a great range of landscape settings, from nature reserves to neighbourhood parks. With the new criteria, we aim to encourage more inclusive landscape designs that enable everyone, including those with different mobility needs, to enjoy our parks and public spaces with their loved ones and friends. This is another key step in creating an inclusive built environment.

Universal Design Assessor certification

With the extension of Universal Design beyond new and existing buildings, there will be a rising demand for knowledge and expertise in Universal Design, particularly among architects and building professionals. They will play an important role in promoting friendly and inclusive designs for future projects and developments, and for retrofitting of existing developments to meet the needs for barrier-free accessibility.

In anticipation of the demand for such expertise, the BCA Academy started the first run of its Certification Course for Universal Design Assessor in July 2012. Through the Course, local experts in Universal Design and professionals in the area of special needs will share the importance of Universal Design with participants. Attendees will also gain a deeper appreciation of the benefits of inclusive designs through direct contact with varied user groups through an increased awareness of how their designs can impact different user profiles.

The course has proven to be popular among professionals with 295 of them certified as Universal Design Assessors in seven runs. The BCA will train another 100 professionals by 2015 to meet the anticipated demand.

Find your friendly buildings smartphone application (Annex C)

To bring Universal Design closer to Singaporeans, the BCA's online search application for user-friendly buildings in Singapore has now been extended to a smartphone application. Using the findings of the BCA's Accessibility Rating System and with the benefit of smartphone technology, users can conveniently access information about the accessibility and user-friendliness of more than 2,800 buildings in Singapore.

The "Friendly Building Search" application includes an augmented reality feature, which projects the most accessible route between two locations. The application is an extension of the BCA's Online Friendly Building Search (www.friendlybuildings.sg), which was developed in 2014 and rates buildings on five levels of accessibility.

Singapore Universal Design Week

As part of our outreach programme to raise awareness of Universal Design, the BCA organised the inaugural Singapore Universal Design Week to highlight the growing importance of barrier-free accessibility and Universal Design for buildings and public spaces in Singapore. The Singapore Universal Design Week promotes the importance of Universal Design in creating inclusive living environment to enable people - regardless of age or physical ability - to live, work and play without barriers.

From 5 to 9 November, the Week is a five-day event with a Conference, Exhibitions, Workshop and other activities held at the Singapore's Marina Bay area. The Conference and Products Showcase, titled 'Universal Design in Architecture and Urban Spaces', is the anchor event of the Week and features notable speakers including renowned architect Mr. Daniel Libeskind.

At the Week, the BCA, Handicaps Welfare Association ("HWA") and the Singapore Institute of Architects ("SIA") will also be signing a memorandum of understanding ("MOU") - the first tripartite co-operation in the area of Universal Design social enterprise to push for greater employability for persons with disabilities.

Under the MOU, SIA will promote the modelling and drafting services of the HWA 3D Building Information Modelling ("BIM") Studio to their members and encourage them to engage the Studio for drafting and modelling works. BIM is recognised worldwide as an enabling technology to integrate the construction value chain and improve productivity in the industry. The BCA will provide training and give the latest updates on BIM technology to the HWA to help keep the BIM training up-to-date with the latest development in the field.

Dr. Keung added: "The MOU is a key milestone in the BCA's strategy to tap on tripartite partnerships - people, private and public - for Universal Design in Singapore. Through this Universal Design social enterprise, persons with disabilities can build new capability and gain meaningful employment by joining the HWA-SIA-BCA joint training programme on BIM, which is a powerful and productive tool that is transforming Singapore's built environment sector. The SIA members can tap on BIM capability of graduates of the joint BIM training programme to help meet the need for BIM personnel in the industry. For the BCA, this is another avenue to accelerate the industry's adoption of Universal Design and BIM that will contribute to a future-ready and inclusive built environment for Singapore."

Footnotes

Speech by BCA CEO Dr. John Keung at the Singapore Universal Design Week 2014 at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre 

Portable document format version of the media release is also available(100KB .pdf).

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