Built Environment

The Centre’s work on Universal Design for the Built Environment involves conducting original research and developing design recommendations for use by professionals on a wide range of building types and spaces, including homes, shared spaces, and educational campuses. All of our research and guidance is available to download for free below.

About our work on the Built Environment

This video is also available with Irish Sign Language and with Audio Description 

Built Environment publications 

"Building for Everyone: A Universal Design Approach" provides comprehensive best practice guidance on how to design, build and manage buildings and spaces so that they can be readily accessed and used by everyone, regardless of age, size ability or disability

The Building for Everyone series is available for free download here.

Our work on housing includes guidelines and research on Universal Design for homes in Ireland as well as guidelines for Dementia Friendly Dwellings for People with Dementia, their Families and Carers  

The Universal Design Guidelines for Homes in Ireland are available for free download here.

The Universal Design Guidelines,  Dementia Friendly Dwellings for People with Dementia, their Families and Carers are available for free download here.

"Shared Space, Shared Surfaces and Home Zones from a Universal Design Approach for the Urban Environment in Ireland" explores contemporary national and international practices and thinking on Shared Spaces, Shared Surfaces and Home Zones and to investigate these concepts from a Universal Design approach in the Irish urban environment.

The Shared Space report is available for free download here.


People are diverse - some are left-handed and some right-handed - and vary in their age, size and functional capacities. Illness or disability (whether temporary or permanent) can also affect characteristics such as a person’s mobility, dexterity, reach, balance, strength, stamina, sight, hearing, speech, touch, knowledge, understanding, memory, or sense of direction.

People of diverse abilities should be able to use buildings and places comfortably and safely, as far as possible without special assistance. People should be able to find their way easily, understand how to use building facilities such as intercoms or lifts, and know what is a pedestrian facility and where they may encounter traffic.

Given the wide diversity of the population, a universal design approach, which caters for the broadest range of users from the outset, can result in buildings and places that can be used and enjoyed by everyone. That approach eliminates or reduces the need for expensive changes or retro fits to meet the needs of particular groups at a later stage.
It is good practice to ascertain the needs of the range of expected users as early as possible, and to check the practicality and usability of emerging designs with a diverse user panel.

Designing for one group can result in solutions that address the needs of many others. For example:

  • level entry (Step-free) entrances facilitate not just wheelchair users but also people with buggies; people with suitcases or shopping trolleys; people using walking or mobility aids; and people with visual difficulties
  • larger toilet compartments provide easier access to wheelchair users; those with luggage or parcels; parents with pushchairs or accompanying small children; those using walking or mobility aids; and larger-sized people
  • clear, well-placed signage that uses recognised symbols or pictograms helps people with reading or cognitive difficulties, and those whose first language is neither English nor Irish

Sometimes one solution will not suit all and a range of options will need to be provided. For example:

  • providing both steps and a ramp where there is a change in level
  • providing parking ticket machines that offer slots at different heights to facilitate use at standing height, sitting height, and by people of small stature

Those who commission, design, construct or manage any part of the built and made environment also have a duty of care to adhere to relevant legislation and regulations including equality legislation, building regulations and health and safety regulations.

(Text taken from "Building for Everyone: A Universal Design Approach")