| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The Key outcomes:
1) To enhance the Code to push the UD boundary
2) To ensure built environment cater to the users’ needs
3) To ensure buy-in by developers and building owners
4) To moderate expectation of users
5) To encourage social graciousness of public in the use of accessible features
The whole process of review and public engagement leading to the launch of the Code has fully illustrated how a process that involved the 3Ps (people, public and private) would lead to an inclusive built environment.
The key steps involved to achieve the key outcomes are as follows
1) Formation of Code Review Committee (CRC) The current Code review process began in end 2010 with the formation of the CRC. Led by BCA, the tripartite committee comprised representatives from the public, the private and the people sectors including public agencies, hospitals and VWOs such as SAVH, HWA, DPA, SAOT, and SAGE.
2) Users Consultation Groups (USG) In preparing for the review, a USG representing users or persons with disabilities and other interests group was formed. Besides getting feedback on the specific needs, site visits and user trials were conducted to re-examine existing provisions as well as to validate the practical application of certain proposed enhancements such as ramps, corridors with detectable surfaces. The USG was kept abreast of the proceedings in the Code Review Committee.
1) Focus Group Discussions (FGD) were conducted during this period of review. They include
(i) FGD on Accessible Tourism.
(ii) FGD with industry such as Singapore Sanitary Ware importers and Exporters Association
(iii) FGD with specific VWOs, eg Singapore Association for the Deaf
3) Public Consultation exercise on Draft Code from 1st to 30th April 2013.To get the maximum outreach with regard to the proposed changes, the Draft Code was launched through the Minister of National Development’s blog and media conference. The invitation for feedback on the draft code was sent via:
(i) BCA web-site and ‘Reach” - the national portal for feedback on government policies.
(ii) Professional bodies and institutions representing various interest group
(iii) Other government agencies
(iv) Other VWOs who have not been directly involved in the code reviews
4) Collation of Feedback
At the close of the consultation exercise, 45 people/organisations gave their feedback on the draft Code and provide about 300 suggestions and views. In general, the public and various stakeholders are supportive of the proposed revisions to enhance provisions for persons with disabilities and to introduce family-friendly requirements. Evaluation of these feedback revealed several notable topics (e.g. larger accessible toilets, nursing facilities, provisions for the visually impaired and persons with total hearing loss) which were carefully considered by the Committee.
5) Finalised Code and Launch. Taking into consideration all the feedback, revisions were made and presented to the Code Review Committee for final endorsement. The Revised Code was launched on 30 August 2013 with a lot of media interests. The enhanced provisions for the persons with disabilities were much welcome by the VWOs. The provisions for family, in particular the mandatory provision of the lactation room received much publicity and the Hong Kong South China Morning Post even reported it on 24 Oct 2013.
6) Implementation of revised code. The building industry was given at least 6 months grace period as lead time to plan for new building projects. To ensure that the industry was ready, seminars on the new Code was organised for the architects and designers.
Illustration of the key developments and steps are as shown in appendix A.
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The Code Review Committee led by BCA, is a tripartite committee comprising representatives from the public sectors, the private and people sectors.
Public sectors (these are main building/facilities owner and developers)
- Land Transport Authority
- National Parks Boards
- Housing and Development Board
- Singapore Association for Occupational Therapists (SAOT)
- National University of Singapore (NUS), Department of Architecture
- Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (REDAS),
- Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA)
People Sectors/ Volunteer Welfare Associations (VWOs)/Advocates/Users
- Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH),
- Handicaps Welfare Association (HWA), Disabled People’s Association (DPA),
- Singapore Action Group of Elders1 (SAGE)
- Society for the Physically Disableds
BCA also formed another Users Consultation Group. In addition to the above VWOs, it comprises representatives from the following
- Council for the Third Age (a government funded organisation to promote active lifestyle for people in the third age (50 years and above)
- Society for the Physically Disableds
- Singapore Association for the deaf. (SADeaf)
- Other individuals
Besides obtaining feedback from the group, some members are invited to join in the site visit to buildings to give feedback. Users’ trial and validation were also carried with some of the organisations’ representative.
In addition to these organisations, BCA separately engage the other related government agencies, such as Ministry of Social and Family Development, National Council of Social Services, Ministry of Education (MOE), Singapore Sports Council (SSC), People’s Association (PA). These are the agencies which BCA has involved them in talks and meetings to encourage them to comply beyond the Code and to upgrade the existing building to today’s standard.
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
BCA goes beyond the key role of a regulator to that of the facilitator and promoter. To have a Code that meet the needs of the users and yet at the same time not over-burden the providers is a delicate balance to achieve. Initiatives to ensure key stakeholders buy-in are needed. After the Code launch, it is also important that the architects, designers, builders are able to implement them well. Hence, capability building and public awareness are the impertinent towards an inclusive built environment.
The following are some of the initiatives implemented by BCA.
The whole Code Review process took up to 2 years. As the Chair of the Code Review Committee, BCA undertakes the work of research and benchmarking against international Codes. Besides web searches, BCA also organised overseas learning trip with the industry and representatives of the VWOs. Countries visited included Japan, USA (Boston), Denmark and Norway.
Raising Industry Capability
BCA organised meetings with the International Panel of Experts on UD (in 2010 and 2012) in Singapore to provide a forum for the VWOs, industry, academia, local and international experts to share ideas and to propose new initiatives.
To encourage more UD adopters and to demonstrate the UD principles, a small sensory garden was built in consultation with the Japanese landscape architect, Yoshisukee Miyake, in 2007 at the BCA Academy for visitors, students and the building industry.
The Friendly Buildings Portal and the Accessibility Rating System (ARS) are developed and maintained in-house by BCA’s Universal Design Department(UDD) and our Information Technology Department (ITD).
As part of the “Nurturing the Young” programme, interns from colleges are trained on UD and enlisted to audit buildings to build up the database for the ARS. .
To reach out to the general public and to raise awareness on UD in the built environment, BCA also organises Roving exhibitions at grass root functions and large shopping malls.
The implementation of the Code is carried out mainly by the Universal Design Department (UDD) and Building Plan Department (UDD) of BCA with support from other departments in BCA. The officers in UDD and BPD are mainly trained in architectural, engineering or building designs.
Plan submissions are carried out through the one-stop government e-submission portal CORENET and received by BCA. Internally BCA officers would receive the electronic plans via BCA’s own ISPS (Integrated Plan Submission System) for processing.
• The government has set aside $40 million Accessibility Fund as incentive for upgrading accessibility facilities in existing buildings by building owners. UDD is administering the application and use of the fund.
In all, there are currently about 40 officers from Building Plan and Management (BPM) Groups involved in the formulation and implementation of the Code. In addition, BCA’s Senior Management (i.e. our CEO, Deputy CEO (Building Control) and Group Director (BPM)) were also instrumental in providing leadership & guidance, as well as reach out to top management of private sector firms/other public agencies to obtain buy-in for our initiatives.
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The key outcome of the Accessibility Code is a more accessible built environment. The Code has been an important driver behind the observable improvements to accessibility in Singapore.
The following were considered the most successful output in the recent Accessibility Code review which led to the launch of the Code on Accessibility in the Built Environment 2013.
1) A code that is comprehensive and embraces all.
It positively contributes towards fulfilling our nation’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) to enable persons with disabilities to participate as active members of the society
2) The review has also led to the amendment of the Building Control Regulations to mandate the provision of family friendly features in public buildings. This is a significant change in the provision for women and children. The mandatory provision of the nursing room in public places received lots of interests from different sectors, both locally and overseas.
3) BCA received positive feedback from VWOs and advocates for rights of persons with disabilities. We are their trusted partner in pursuing an inclusive society.
4) Raised awareness of providers as evident in the number of BCA Universal Design Awards and UD Marks recipients.
5) Recognition by the other countries
- Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post (SCMP) highlighted that Singapore would be launching new Code that would require family friendly features to be provided for public buildings such as malls. The SCMP commented that Hong Kong should follow Singapore’s lead in making such provisions.
- Design For All Foundation (based in Barcelona, Spain) has also reported that BCA is expanding its Accessibility Code to include provisions to meet the needs of families and more requirements catering to older and disabled people.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
To create a user-friendly built environment is part of BCA’s corporate mission of shaping “a safe, high quality, sustainable and friendly built environment”.
The Periodic Code review is an important part of the SOP of the BCA Regulatory system. It ensures that the Code is updated to meet the current and future needs.
When the Code was launched, circulars were sent to the professional bodies and industry to inform them of the changes and the effective date of implementation. To ensure that the industry is kept abreast of the changes to the Code, briefing sessions are organised for the industry. More courses on the provisions in the Code will be put by the BCA Academy for architects, technical staff and builders.
All building plan submissions for regulatory approvals are submitted through CORENET - the one-stop Government e-submission system. The plans are then transmitted to BCA’s own electronic plan processing system called the ISPS (Integrated Plan Submission System) that stores all building plan submissions and related building information.
Building Plans submitted to the BCA building control office will be checked to ensure that the “accessible route plan’ and the accessibility features are shown in compliance with the Code before Plan Approvals. Upon complication, the BCA will conduct the site check to verify that the accessibility features are built according to the approved plans before occupation permits are issued to the building developers.
As a facilitator, the UD Department will also allow walk-in consultations to discuss on how to provide accessibility features to make the buildings user-friendly.
In addition, BCA has developed a portal [www.friendlybuildings.sg] to serve as a one-stop portal for information on UD and accessibility to cater to the special needs of different user groups. BCA updates the building information regularly and about 3000 Singapore buildings are featured in this portal.
The Portal allows users to search for buildings with specific criteria such as children play area, family rooms, accessible lifts, accessible public toilets etc. An Accessibility Rating System (ARS) was developed to indicate the accessibility/UD features of the building. Accessible routes to the buildings can also be found; thus allowing wheelchair users or mothers with prams to plan their routes accordingly when visiting these buildings.
The portal also gains international recognition as it is featured in the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) website.
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The following are the main obstacles in creating an accessible and user-friendly built environment
Upgrading of Existing Buildings
Many of the older existing buildings are not accessible as they were constructed before the implementation of the Code in 1990. Some of the factors that discourage building owners from carrying out the necessary upgrading work to their buildings include upgrading cost, inconvenience and disruption brought about by retrofitting works and the existing physical constraints.
BCA set up a dedicated team to drive the upgrading existing buildings. Targets were set for government to upgrade key public sector buildings. With BCA’s facilitation, close to 100% of most publicly accessed public sector buildings were barrier-free by 2012
To encourage the upgrading of existing private sector buildings with at least basic accessibility, the Government put in place an S$40 million Accessibility Fund to co-pay the cost of upgrading of up to 80%. To-date, S$33 million has been distributed to private building owners for upgrading their buildings.
Lack of Public Awareness on Accessibility and Universal Design
To raise more public awareness, BCA showcases accessibility and UD features at the BCA Gallery which has been effective in raising the awareness of the public especially for the young. The Friendly Portal and the Accessibility Rating System are implemented to reach out to the general public using the internet. Roving exhibitions at the community places are organised to raise public awareness.
To raise technical awareness and capabilities of the industry, courses and workshops on accessibility and UD are organised. UD guides are disseminated to the industry and stakeholders. Overseas learning journeys on UD was also organised for the industry to learn the best practices of other countries.