Building standards technical handbook 2022: non-domestic

Guidance on achieving the standards set in the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004. This handbook applies to a building warrant submitted on or after 1 June 2022 and to building work which does not require a warrant commenced from that date.

4.2 Access within buildings

Mandatory Standard

Standard 4.2

Every building must be designed and constructed in such a way that:

  1. in non-domestic buildings, safe, unassisted and convenient means of access is provided throughout the building

  2. in residential buildings, a proportion of the rooms intended to be used as bedrooms must be accessible to a wheelchair user

  3. in domestic buildings, safe and convenient means of access is provided within common areas and to each dwelling

  4. in dwellings, safe and convenient means of access is provided throughout the dwelling, and

  5. in dwellings, unassisted means of access is provided to, and throughout, at least one level.


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

  1. in a non-domestic building not served by a lift, to a room, intended to be used as a bedroom, that is not on an entrance storey, or

  2. in a domestic building not served by a lift, within common areas and to each dwelling, other than on an entrance storey.

4.2.0 Introduction

Circulation areas within a building should allow occupants to move around freely and without difficulty, to the best of their ability. Lack of space can make movement around a building difficult for many people and hamper activities such as carrying or moving large items.

It is important to consider space provision and the form of access, both within and between storeys and particular elements of a building that may otherwise make use of a building difficult for many people.

All those involved in the design of buildings should also 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’

  • 'Accessible Stadia' (Football Licensing Authority, 2003). This document provides useful guidance on accessibility issues relating specifically to assembly buildings such as sports stadia and arenas.

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 conversion (regulation 12, schedule 6).

4.2.1 Access within buildings

A building should be accessible to everyone. It should be possible for a person to move throughout a building and use the facilities present to the best of their ability, without assistance and without the need to overcome unnecessary barriers.

Every storey and level of a building should be accessible. However it is recognised that it may not be necessary or, in some cases, reasonably practicable to provide full access to all parts of a building. Consequently, the following exceptions are noted.

Limited access - level access, or access by stair, ramp or lifting device need not be provided to any storey, or part of a storey:

  • containing only fixed plant or machinery, the only normal visits to which are intermittent, for inspection or maintenance purposes, or

  • where access must be restricted to suitably trained persons for health and safety reasons, such as walkways providing access only to process machinery or catwalks and working platforms reached by industrial ladder.

Stepped access - level or ramped access or access by a lift need not be provided:

  • in a residential building, such as a hotel, to an upper storey or level containing neither communal facilities or accommodation, including bedrooms, designed to be accessible to a wheelchair user, or

  • to a raised area, other than a gallery, within a storey of a restaurant, bar or similar building, which amounts to not more than half the public area, if all serving and other facilities are located on the accessible portion of the storey, or

  • in a car parking structure, to a storey within which accessible parking spaces are not provided, unless that storey also contains facilities that are not available on another, accessible, storey, or

  • within an area of fixed seating, other than to spaces provided for wheelchair users as recommended in guidance to Standard 4.10.

Small buildings - in small 2 storey buildings, ramped access or access by a lift need not be provided where:

  • the total floor area of each storey is not more than 100m2and the full range of goods, services and facilities are available on the accessible storey, and

  • the greater proportion of the service provision should be on the accessible storey, unless it can be shown that a lesser provision would be appropriate for the use of the building, such as ‘one to one’ consultancy, for example a dental surgery or beauty salon. However, where the service provision could mean a group of several customers gather together in the building for a period of time (for example, a restaurant) then the floor area of the room(s) used for providing that service should be greatest on the accessible storey.

Access between areas in buildings such as places of lawful detention may need to be restricted for security purposes. Where proposed, any such restrictions should be clearly identified.

4.2.2 Corridors

Corridors within a building should be wide enough to allow two-way traffic and manoeuvring at junctions or when passing through doorways. For example, a clear width of 1.8m is the minimum that will allow two wheelchair users to pass safely.

All corridors therefore should have an unobstructed width of at least 1.2m wide. This is the minimum width for escape recommended in Section 2, (Fire).

However where corridors are less than 1.8m in width, manoeuvring or passing spaces of not less than 1.8m in length and width and free of obstructions should be provided. These can be more easily incorporated at any change of direction and at junctions.

Obstructions - other than on a wall opposite a doorway, or in the areas noted above, an obstruction such as a radiator may project up to 100mm, reducing a corridor width to 1.1m, over a maximum length of 900mm.

Gently sloping surfaces - within a building, unidentified gradients may disorient building users and the need for gently sloping surfaces in rooms and on circulation routes should be considered carefully before use. Level rest points on gently sloping routes should be provided as recommended in clause 4.1.3. Where not extending across the full width of a room or corridor, guarding should be provided to any exposed edge of such an area as for a ramp flight, as noted in the guidance to Standard 4.4.

4.2.3 Floor surfaces

Floor surfaces to corridors and circulation areas within a building should be uniform, permit ease in manoeuvring and be of a material and finish that, when clean and dry, provides a level of traction that will minimise the possibility of slipping.

Where there is a change in the characteristics of materials on a circulation route, such as from a tile to carpet finish, transition should be level and, where reasonably practicable, differing surfaces should contrast visually to identify the change in material and reduce the potential for trips.

4.2.4 Lobbies

Use of a lobby can reduce the effect of external conditions on the interior of a building and may also contribute to fire safety. However where two sets of doors are located in close proximity, this can present a hazard and a potential barrier to access.

Any lobby provided at the entrance to or within a building should allow a person to pass through whilst remaining clear of the swing of doors. A rectangular area, of at least 1.6m long by 750mm wide, outwith any door swing, would permit safe passage of, for example, a person in a wheelchair and a companion.

Figure 4.3. Examples of accessible lobby dimensions

Examples of accessible lobby dimensions

Where either door can be secured by a locking device, the lobby should be not less than 1.5m wide. This will permit a wheelchair or pram to be turned around should passage be denied.

However the above recommendations need not be applied to a lobby leading solely to sanitary accommodation which does not contain an enlarged WC cubicle or an accessible sanitary facility.

4.2.5 Internal doors

Within a building, doors should present as little restriction to passage as possible and be constructed in a manner that does not present a hazard or a potential barrier to access.

An internal door within a building should:

  1. if fitted with a threshold, have an accessible threshold, and

  2. have a door leaf which provides a clear opening width in accordance with the table below, and

  3. if across a circulation route or in other specified locations, have a clear glazed panel in any openable leaf, as noted below, and

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

  5. if fitted with a closing device, meet the recommendations given in clause 4.2.6.

Table 4.1. Width of doors

Minimum corridor width at door (mm) Minimum clear opening width (mm) [1]
1500 800
1200 825 [2]
900 [3] 850 [2]

Additional information:


  1. The projection of any ironmongery that extends across the width of a door leaf, such as an emergency push bar to a fire exit or horizontal pull handle to accessible sanitary accommodation, should be subtracted when calculating the clear opening width.

  2. The clear opening width may reduce to 800mm where a door is approached head-on.

  3. A corridor width of less than 1.2m should not be present within new buildings but may be found within some existing buildings.


However the above provisions need not apply to a door within part of a building to which access by stair, ramp or lifting device need not be provided, as set out in clause 4.2.1. In addition, within sanitary accommodation, sub-clauses (b) & (d) need only apply to a door giving access to an enlarged WC cubicle or to an accessible sanitary facility.

A door should not open onto a corridor in a manner that might create an obstruction, other than a door to a cupboard or duct enclosure that is normally locked in a closed position.

A clear glazed vision panel, as described in clause 4.1.7, should be provided to any door across a corridor and:

  • to a door between a circulation space and a room with an occupant capacity of more than 60, and

  • to the outer door of a lobby leading solely to sanitary accommodation.

Vision panels may be omitted for security reasons, within places of lawful detention, or where light or noise control is essential, such as to a cinema or theatre auditorium, provided doors with a double swing action are not used.

4.2.6 Door closing devices

Heavy door leaves and strong closing devices can make an otherwise accessible door impassable to many building users. The force needed to open and pass through a door, against a closing device, therefore should be limited.

A door should be capable of operating with an opening force of not more than 30N (for first 30º of opening) and 22.5N (for remainder of swing) when measured at the leading edge of the leaf. Within this limit, a closing device should close the door leaf from any opening angle, against the resistance of any latch and seals, under normal operating conditions.

Where a door across a corridor requires to be retained in a closed position, in normal use or under fire conditions, and this cannot be achieved by use of a closer alone without exceeding these opening forces, a latch should be used to retain the door in a closed position and the door fitted with operating ironmongery.

A free swing device, which only has a closing action when activated by an alarm system, should not be fitted to a door across a circulation route as this permits the door to be left open at any angle, creating a collision hazard.

4.2.7 Vertical circulation between storeys

Stairs within a building should be designed to be accessible to a person with reduced mobility, as described in guidance to Standard 4.3. There should be an accessible stair between each level of a building.

In addition to such a stair, a means of unassisted access, other than a ramp, should be provided between storeys except to specific areas where access by a lift need not be provided, as described in clause 4.2.1.

Generally, unassisted access between storeys should be provided by a passenger lift, with the installation meeting the recommendations of BS EN 81-70: 2003.

In some circumstances, when altering existing buildings or within new buildings with a small storey area, it may not always be reasonably practicable to install a passenger lift. In such cases, where vertical travel is not more than 4.0m, the installation of a powered lifting platform meeting the recommendations of BS 6440: 1999, may be considered.

General provisions for lifting devices - any lifting device should be designed and installed to include the following general provisions:

  • a clear landing at least 1.5m x 1.5m in front of any lift entrance door, and

  • controls on each level served, between 900mm and 1.1m above the landing, and within the lift car on a side wall between 900mm and 1.1m above the car floor and at least 400mm from any corner, and

  • on the landing of each level served, tactile call buttons and visual and tactile indication of the storey level, and

  • lift doors, handrails and controls that contrast visually with surrounding surfaces, and

  • a signalling system which gives notification that the lift is answering a call made from a landing, and

  • a means of two way communication, operable by a person with a hearing impairment, that allows contact with the lift if an alarm is activated, together with visual indicators that alarm has been sounded and received.

In addition to general provisions for lifting devices, a passenger lift should be provided with:

  • automatic lift door(s), with a clear opening width of at least 800mm, fitted with sensors that will prevent injury from contact with closing doors, and

  • a lift car at least 1.1m wide by 1.4m deep, and

  • within the overall dimensions of the lift car, a horizontal handrail, of a size and section that is easily gripped, located 900mm above the floor on any wall not containing a door, and

  • within a lift car not offering through passage, a mirror on the wall facing the doors, above handrail height, to assist a wheelchair user in reversing out, and

  • within the lift car, tactile storey selector buttons and, in a lift serving more than 2 storeys, visual and voice indicators of the storey reached, and

  • a system which permits adjustment of the dwell time after which the lift doors close, once fully opened, to suit the level of use.

In addition to general provisions for lifting devices, a powered lifting platform should:

  • if serving a storey to which the public have access, have a platform size of 1100mm wide by 1400mm deep and a clear opening width to any door of 850mm, or

  • if serving any other storey, have a platform size of at least 1050mm wide by 1250mm deep and a clear opening width to any door of 800mm, and

  • be fully contained within a liftway enclosure, and

  • have a operational speed of not more than 0.15 metres per second, and

  • be operated by a continuous pressure type control, of a form operable by a person with limited manual dexterity, and

  • be provided with a horizontal handrail, of a size and section that is easily gripped, 900mm above the floor fitted to at least one side of the platform, and

  • be provided with permanent and clear operating instructions located adjacent to or within the platform.

4.2.8 Vertical circulation within storeys

In addition to a stair, as described in guidance to Standard 4.3, a ramp or lifting device should be provided to every change of level within a storey, except to specific areas where access by a lift or ramp need not be provided, as described in clause 4.2.1.

Access between levels within a storey provided by a lifting device should be in accordance with the recommendation given in clause 4.2.7. However where a powered lifting platform is used, this may be without a liftway enclosure where vertical travel is not more than 2.0m.

4.2.9 Sleeping accommodation within residential buildings

Within residential buildings, such as hotels and halls of residence, sleeping accommodation which is accessible to a wheelchair user should be provided. At least 1 bedroom in 20, or part thereof, should:

  • be provided with accessible sanitary accommodation, as noted in clause 3.12.3, and

  • have an effective clear width of not less than 1.2m between walls, fixed furniture or other permanent obstructions within the room, and

  • contain a manoeuvring space of at least 1.5m by 1.5m, clear of obstructions, including furniture and any door swing, and

  • have a clear space around at least one bed of at least 700mm wide to the foot and one side and at least 1.5m wide to the other side, which may overlap with the manoeuvring space noted above, and

  • include an assistance alarm that can be operated or reset from a bed space, and is also operable from floor level. The alarm should have an audible tone distinguishable from a fire alarm and a visual indicator provided both within and outside the bedroom and should also give alert at a location where staff will be on duty.

However in a place of lawful detention, the ratio may be increased to not more than 1 in 100.

4.2.10 Fixed counter installations at service points

Fixed counter installations such as a reception desk or a serving counter in a bar or restaurant should be accessible to a person who is standing, regardless of stature, or seated in a wheelchair.

To allow this, surfaces should be provided at two levels. For standing users, this should be within a range of 950mm to 1.1m in height. For seated users, this should be approximately 750mm above floor level, with a knee recess below of at least 500mm deep and at least 700mm high and a clear manoeuvring space in front of the surface of at least 1.2m deep. The knee recess is particularly important where activities such as writing may take place, such as at a bank counter. Where depth of the surface will permit, the knee recess should be provided to both sides of the counter.

Where only one such counter is proposed a portion of the surface, not less than 900mm wide or, where practical in larger installations, 1.5m wide, should be installed at lower height. Where a number of similar counters are proposed, at least one counter should be installed at the lower height.

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