Publication - Advice and guidance

Building standards technical handbook 2019: non-domestic

The building standards technical handbooks provide guidance on achieving the standards set in the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004. This handbook applies to a building warrant submitted on or after 1 October 2019 and to building work which does not require a warrant commenced from that date.

Building standards technical handbook 2019: non-domestic
4. Safety

4.1 Access to buildings

Mandatory Standard

Standard 4.1

Every building must be designed and constructed in such a way that all occupants and visitors are provided with safe, convenient and unassisted means of access to the building.


There is no requirement to provide access for a wheelchair user to:

  1. a house, between either the point of access to or from any car parking within the curtilage of a building and an entrance to the house where it is not reasonably practicable to do so, or

  2. a common entrance of a domestic building not served by a lift, where there are no dwellings entered from a common area on the entrance storey.

4.1.0 Introduction

An inclusive approach to design should be taken to ensure that buildings are as accessible to as wide a range of people as possible. Solutions should be integral to a design rather than an afterthought added in order to meet duties under building standards or other legislation.

Inclusive design is not just relevant to buildings. It applies throughout any internal or external environment, wherever people go about everyday activities. It should be a continuous process, through all stages of the development of a building and involve potential users. Advice on this topic is available in the joint BSD/Scottish Executive Planning Division Planning Advice Note PAN 78: ‘Inclusive Design’ which promotes the merits of an inclusive approach to the design of the built environment.

All those that are involved in the design of buildings should be aware of their responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010, further details of which can be found in clause 4.0.1.

Whilst the guidance to this standard reflects general good practice, certain issues remain outwith the scope of the building regulations. There are numerous publications offering additional guidance on accessibility and inclusive design, including those listed below:

  • BS 8300: 2009 – ‘Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people – code of practice’

  • 'Inclusive Mobility' – Department of Transport, 2002

  • ‘Guidance on the Use of Tactile Paving Surfaces’, published jointly by The Scottish Office and the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR).

Conversions - in the case of conversions, as specified in regulation 4, the building as converted shall meet the requirements of this standard in so far as is reasonably practicable, and in no case be worse than before the conversions (regulation 12, schedule 6).

4.1.1 Car parking

The need for car parking serving a building will commonly be determined by a developer and may also be a condition of planning permission. Where car parking is provided within the curtilage of a building, it should include accessible spaces.

A proportion of car parking spaces should be designed to be accessible to a person with mobility impairment, including a wheelchair user, and designated for use as such. These parking spaces should be:

  1. provided on a ratio of at least 1 per 20 parking spaces, or part thereof, and

  2. located on a road surface that is level (with a gradient of not more than 1 in 50), and

  3. not more than 45m from a common entrance, and

  4. clearly marked with the international symbol of access, and

  5. provided with a dropped kerb access to an accessible route, and

  6. where perpendicular or at an angle to a road, at least 4.8m long x 2.4m wide, outwith which a delineated access zone at least 1.2m wide to each long side and between the end of the bay and any road is shown, or

  7. where parallel to a road, at least 6.6m long by 3.6m wide, as shown below.

Planning legislation - reference should also be made to SPP 17: ‘Planning for Transport’ where a more onerous provision than noted in sub-clause (a) above may be recommended for certain building types.

Figure 4.1. Off- and on-street accessible car parking

Off- and on-street accessible car parking

To allow operation by a person who uses a wheelchair, equipment such as ticket dispensers, located in pedestrian areas where there are accessible car parking spaces, should have any controls at a height of between 750mm and 1.2m above ground level.

4.1.2 Setting-down points

For the convenience of a person arriving at a building in a vehicle driven by another, where a road is provided within the curtilage of a building, there should be a setting-down point close to a principal entrance of each building.

This should be on a level surface, where the road gradient or camber is less than 1 in 50, with a dropped kerb between the road and an accessible route to the building.

On a busy vehicular route, such as a public highway, a setting-down point should be positioned outwith the road carriageway. As a person may require assistance in alighting from a vehicle, the size of the setting-down point should follow the recommendations for an on-street parking bay given in clause 4.1.1.

4.1.3 Accessible routes

Regardless of how they arrive within the curtilage of a building, a person should then be able to travel conveniently and without assistance to the entrance of a building. Routes to a building that are too steep, too narrow or poorly surfaced, or that contain steps or other obstructions, will make access difficult or impossible for many people. To prevent this, a route to an entrance should be provided that is accessible to everyone.

An accessible route should contain no barriers, such as kerbs, steps or similar obstructions that may restrict access. Street furniture can present a hazard, particularly to a wheelchair user or a person with a visual impairment and should be located outwith the width of an accessible route. Use of low-level bollards or chain-linked posts, for example, can be particularly hazardous.

There should be an accessible route to the principal entrance to a building, and to any other entrance that provides access for a particular group of people (for example, a staff or visitor entrance), from:

  1. a road, and

  2. any accessible car parking provided within the curtilage of the building.

There should also be an accessible route between accessible entrances of different buildings within the same curtilage.

Gradient of accessible route - as steeper gradients are more difficult to negotiate, level or gently sloping routes should be used where possible, in preference to ramps. An accessible route should be:

  • level, which for the purpose of this guidance is a gradient of not more than 1 in 50, or

  • gently sloping, which for the purpose of this guidance is a gradient of more than 1 in 50 and not more than 1 in 20, or

  • ramped, with a gradient of more than 1 in 20 and not more than 1 in 12

the cross-fall on any part of an accessible route should not exceed 1 in 40.

Gently sloping gradients should be provided with level rest points of not less than 1.5m in length, at intervals dependent on the gradient of the sloping surface. This should follow the same relationship given for ramp flights, e.g. up to 20m apart for a slope of 1 in 30, 30m for a slope of 1 in 40 and so on.

Recommendations for ramps are provided in the guidance to Standard 4.3.

Complementary steps - ramps are not necessarily safe or convenient for an ambulant person with mobility impairment, and can be more difficult and dangerous to negotiate than steps. Therefore, any ramped access, having a rise of more than 300mm, should be complemented by an alternate, stepped means of access.

4.1.4 Surface of an accessible route

For safety and convenience in use, the surface of an accessible route should be firm, uniform and of a material and finish that will permit ease in manoeuvring. It should provide a degree of traction that will minimise the possibility of slipping. This should take into account both anticipated use and environmental conditions.

The surface of an accessible route, whether composed of modular paving units, formless materials such as tarmac, or another durable material, should have a profile that will not offer a trip hazard or result in standing water. It should be installed in accordance with a code of practice relevant to the material, where such exists.

Surface elements such as drainage gratings and manhole covers should be of a type that will not create a trip or entrapment hazard. Uneven surfaces, such as cobbles, or loose-laid materials, such as gravel, will present difficulties to many people and should not be used.

Tactile paving - at a location where the footpath is level with a road surface, such as at a dropped kerb, tactile paving should be used to provide warning to a person with a visual impairment of the presence of a vehicular route. Information on use of tactile paving on footpaths is given in 'Guidance on the Use of Tactile Paving Surfaces'.

4.1.5 Length of accessible routes

The longer a pedestrian route, the greater difficulty it can present to many people. Therefore, in addition to minimising gradients where possible, as recommended in clause 4.1.3, the length of an accessible route to an accessible entrance of a building should be limited to 45m.

In some projects, such as sports stadia or retail developments, a large number of accessible parking spaces may be provided. In such a case, it may not be reasonably practicable for every such space to be within 45m of a principal entrance. Where this is the case, resting points with seating positioned outwith the width of the accessible route should be provided at not more than 50m intervals on the route from the furthest spaces.

4.1.6 Width of accessible routes

The width of a pedestrian route to a building should reflect how it will be used. For example, most public footpaths are at least 1.8m wide, which allows two-way traffic under most circumstances.

Any part of an accessible route to a building from accessible parking spaces or a setting-down point should have a minimum surface width of 1.8m.

Elsewhere, the clear and unobstructed surface width of an accessible route should be not less than 1.2m, which will accommodate any person where traffic is in a single direction of travel. To allow for passing, localised widening of any route narrower than 1.8m wide to not less than 1.8m should be made at any junction and change of direction and, where the whole length of the route is not visible, also at not more than 10m intervals along the route.

On an accessible route, a level footpath of not less than 1.0m in width should be maintained to the rear of the slope to any dropped kerb.

Any gate across an accessible route should offer a clear opening width of at least 850mm.

Guidance to Standard 2.9 may further affect minimum width where an accessible route forms part of an escape route.

4.1.7 Accessible entrance

An entrance to a building that will be used as a principal means of access, including an entrance that provides access for a particular group of people, e.g. staff; or that offers a direct means of access between buildings, should be an accessible entrance, designed to present as little restriction to passage as possible.

An accessible entrance to a building should:

  1. be readily identifiable from the general features of the building, and

  2. have an unobstructed entrance platt, measuring at least 1.5m by 1.5m, with a crossfall of not more than 1 in 50, if required to prevent standing water, and

  3. where secured by a lock or other access control system as part of the normal operation of the building, have a canopy, recessed entrance or similar means of protecting people entering the building from the elements, and

  4. have an accessible threshold (see clause 4.1.9), and

  5. have a door leaf which provides a clear opening width of at least 800mm in accordance with the diagram below, and

  6. have a glazed vision panel, as described below, and

  7. be provided with a securely fixed internal floor finish that will reduce tracking of dirt and moisture into the building that may cause a slip hazard and which should offer a firm surface for wheelchair traffic. Where reasonably practicable, this should be provided for a length of at least 1.8m, to allow for drying of both foot and wheeled traffic, and

  8. if not a powered door, have an unobstructed space to the opening face of the door, next to the leading edge, of at least 300mm, and

  9. if fitted with a door closing device, follows the recommendations in clause 4.2.6, and

  10. where it includes a revolving door, also have an adjacent side hinged door in accordance with the points noted above.

Figure 4.2. Accessible entrance door

Accessible entrance door

Weather protection - the form that weather protection should take will vary with location and exposure of the building. However an example of minimum provision might be a canopy or recess, 750mm deep, across the width of the entrance platt, with an underside not more than 2.3m above entrance level. It is recognised that there are circumstances where provision of weather protection may not be practicable or may be constrained by other permissions.

Clear opening width - the projection of ironmongery which extends across the width of a door leaf, such as an emergency push bar for escape or a horizontal grab rail, should be subtracted when calculating the clear opening width.

Glazed vision panels - to assist in preventing collisions, a clear glazed vision panel or panels to a door should give a zone of visibility from a height of not more than 500mm to at least 1.5m above finished floor level. This may be interrupted by a solid element between 800mm and 1.15m above floor level. A vision panel is not needed to a powered door controlled by automatic sensors or where adjacent glazing offers an equivalent clear view to the other side of a door.

Door entry systems - where an intercom or entry control system is provided, it should be positioned between 900mm and 1.2m above floor level. It should include an inductive coupler compatible with the ‘T’ setting on a personal hearing aid, together with a visual indicator that a call made has been received. Controls should contrast visually with surrounding surfaces and any numeric keypad should follow the 12-button telephone convention, with an embossed locater to the central ‘5’ digit.

4.1.8 Powered doors

Use of a powered door will improve accessibility at an entrance to a building. However care should be taken to ensure that the form of such a door does not present any additional hazard or barrier to use.

Powered doors should be controlled by either an automatic sensor, such as a motion detector, or by a manual activation device, such as push-pad. Any manual control should be located at a height of between 750mm and 1.0m above ground level and at least 1.4m from the plane of the door or, where the door opens towards the direction of approach, 1.4m from the front edge of the open door leaf. A manual control should contrast visually with the surface on which it is mounted.

In addition to the general recommendations for accessible entrances given in clause 4.1.7, a powered door should have:

  • signage to identify means of activation and warn of operation, and

  • sensors to ensure doors open swiftly enough and remain open long enough to permit safe passage in normal use and to avoid the door striking a person passing through, and

  • if a swing door, identification of any opening vertical edge using visual contrast, and

  • if on an escape route, or forming a lobby arrangement where the inner door is also powered or lockable, doors that, on failure of supply will either fail ‘open’ or have a break-out facility permitting doors to be opened in direction of escape, and

  • guarding to prevent collision with, or entrapment by a door leaf, except where such guarding would prevent access to the door.

Guidance on safety aspects of automatic doors are given in BS 7036-1 to 5: 1996 – ‘Code of practice for safety at powered doors for pedestrian use’.

Large powered revolving doors can be more convenient to use than small revolving doors but may still present a hazard to some people. They should therefore always be complemented by an adjacent powered swing or sliding door.

4.1.9 Accessible thresholds

To be accessible, a door should not present unnecessary barriers to use, such as a step or raised profile at a threshold, that might present difficulties to a wheelchair user or be an entrapment or trip hazard to an ambulant person, whether or not using a walking aid.

An accessible threshold should be designed to prevent the ingress of rain and should be level where this is reasonably practicable.

Where, an upstand is proposed, any projection should have a height of not more than 15mm, with any vertical element of more than 5mm height being pencil-rounded or chamfered to an angle of not more than 45º to the horizontal.