BCA’s Friendly Built Environment Portal
Building and Construction Authority

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Singapore is an island city with a land area of about 700 sqkm and a growing population of 5.4millions residents and visitors. It is also a multi-cultural and multi-races society. Beyond economic opportunity and a capable government, it is imperative to foster a cohesive, resilient and inclusive society to sustain the community living and economic growth. Singapore underwent rapid urbanisation from the late 1960s, resulting in a high-rise, high-density built environment in the years that followed. At that time, the majority of the population was young and mobile. The need to provide for barrier-free accessibility was not a critical concern compared to maximising land resources for the economic and social needs of the growing population. Today, Singapore has one of the fastest ageing populations. Ageing in one’s home and within the community is beneficial to the elderly person’s wellbeing. To enable ageing-in-place, the physical built environment must be made elder-friendly to provide safe and unhindered access from homes to public amenities, communal and recreational facilities as well as the public transport system. Therefore, accessibility is a key enabler for people to have more opportunities with regard to social, cultural or economic participation. The question on the adequacy of existing public policies to address the accessibility of the built environment to cope with this ageing population and increasing number of persons with disabilities was re-visited in 2006. To prepare for Singapore to assent to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the challenge is to provide accessibility to buildings which were built before the mandatory requirement in 1990. While several programmes to support persons with disabilities and the elderly were initiated by different Ministries and agencies, there was obviously no leader in the promotion of accessibility and Universal Design(UD). This leadership in UD development was also not forth-coming from the academia and the people sectors. Thus, to foster an inclusive society through the built environment, BCA had taken upon itself to go beyond the role of a building regulator by promoting UD. UD enhances the design of buildings and facilities such that they cater to all persons of different abilities and needs, including the general public with infants and children, expectant mothers, the elderly, wheelchair users, ambulant disabled persons with visual impairment and persons with hearing impairment In 1998, National Council of Social Services published the “Access Singapore” booklet which recorded a list of accessible buildings audited by volunteers from Handicapped Welfare Association and Singapore Polytechnic. However, without updating the booklet, it soon became obsolete within a short period of time. With the advancement in information technology (IT), there are opportunities to capitalise on IT and make information on accessibility of buildings more easily available to the public. There is also a need to cater to the new generation of citizens who are increasingly IT-savvy. Hence, the idea of putting a one-stop information centre online and smartphone application was born to help plan their route when they step out of the comfort of their own homes. (499 words)

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
BCA has taken upon itself to champion UD in the built environment to support an inclusive society and the Friendly Built Environment Portal was first conceived as a Virtual Hub :- • To provide information on Accessibility and UD; • To raise awareness among the members of public and the building industry During the early years of UD promotion (at 2007), not many in Singapore have heard of the term “Universal Design” and understand the need to adopt UD in the building design. To centralise all UD related information on one portal will make it easy for all to search and learn about UD and accessibility. The Friendly Built Environment Portal was launched on 14 October 2008 to provide a one-stop information centre on Accessibility and UD for both the building professional and members of public in particular persons with disabilities and family with babies and young children. It broadcasts all BCA’s initiatives on UD and Accessibility such as the application for Accessibility Fund to upgrade existing buildings and BCA UD Mark Certification. It is through this portal that overseas organisations learnt about the UD movement and initiatives in Singapore. An organisation in Hong Kong learnt about Singapore’s UD Mark through this portal and requested to adopt the criteria for UD assessment in a scheme that they are developing. The dedication of this Portal to the subject on accessibility shows Singapore’s commitment to fulfil the obligation under the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. A prominent feature in the portal is the “The Accessibility Rating System” (ARS) and the on-line search engine “Find your Friendly Buildings”. Using this search feature, end-users are able to access the database of about 3000 buildings which include • Commercial Buildings • Community Centres/Clubs • Hospitals/Polyclinics • Hotels/Resorts • Industry Buildings • Institutions/Schools • Libraries • Markets/F&B Outlets • Parks/Playgrounds • Places of Interest/Leisure • Religious Buildings • Shopping Centres • Sports Facilities • Transport Facilities The ARS, which is the FIRST in the region was designed by BCA to rate buildings based on their level of accessibility and user-friendliness. Each building is rated by the number of “sunflower” symbols. The most accessible and user-friendly building is rated with five sunflowers, while the least is rated with one sunflower. The friendly rating is as follows: 5 sunflowers – Winners of the BCA UD Award 4 sunflowers – Full Compliance with the Accessibility Code plus UD features 3 sunflowers – Full Compliance with the Accessibility Code 2 sunflowers – Beyond Basic Accessibility 1 sunflower – Basic Accessibility Features The portal provides information on accessible route to the buildings and user-friendly facilities/features that are available in each building. The Friendly Built Environment Portal creates a platform for members of the public to search for such information easily and plan their trips accordingly. The other key features of the portal include: 1) Features for the Visually Impaired a. “View in Universal Design” Page – a ‘no flash’ view for the talking browser b. Font size adjustments & Colour Contrast c. View in Contrast Page Version 2) Interactive Features Voices : The UD Pen – let the Industry Speak Voices : Share What’s friendly! – Tell Us What You Saw that is Good To ensure continued relevance with evolving needs and technology advancement, the online search engine is now streamlined and adapted into Singapore’s first “Find Your Friendly Buildings Mobile Apps”. Users can search anywhere and anytime with their mobile phone or tablet. This value-added service provided by BCA will greatly enhance the quality of life for all, including families with young children. (589 words)

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
It is a creative and innovative process from the development of the Friendly Built Environment on-line Portal and the “Accessibillity Rating System” to the “Find your Friendly Buildings” Mobile Apps to raise the standard of accessibility and adoption of UD in the built environment in Singapore. It is a great means to reach out to the public, to get buy-in and to encourage demand for UD and “pressuring” providers (developers and building owners) to do more to the built environment. To encourage the visits to the Portal, it is developed and designed to be friendly in look and friendly to use. Details can be found at http://www.friendlybuilidngs.sg The unique and innovative features include the following: a) It is a collaborative among the Public, Private and People sectors. b) One-stop practical and useful reference for all users who need latest information on accessibility and UD-related topics. c) Capitalise on IT and providing free and convenient information. d) List of friendly buildings in ARS motivates and put pressure on owners of inaccessible. buildings to voluntarily improve the accessibility to their premises. e) User-friendly online and smartphone interface that are appealing and marketable to people of different needs and abilities. (197 words)

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The main purpose of the Friendly Built Environment Portal is to provide Information to the general public on Barrier-free Accessibility and Universal Design in the built environment. The strategies are as follows: Numerous users in mind Firstly, to provide a service to members of public by creating a platform for them to check if the building is barrier-free or with UD features before going to the building. The public would also help to create a demand for accessibility and UD in the buildings once they see the benefits of having such features accessible buildings. Secondly, to raise awareness among building owners and building professionals and encourage them to embrace UD in their building design and management. Thirdly, to assist building owners see the business case in upgrading their existing buildings to be barrier-free. Nurturing of the Young As it is a time consuming process in auditing so many buildings, tertiary education students were being deployed. This portal provides a useful platform for nurturing the young on the concept of UD. To date, 77 interns had been trained on Accessibility and UD. They also benefitted from the practical experience by participating in the audit and plotting the access route map for the buildings. Collaboration with VWOs/building owners For building owners, it makes business sense for them to be featured at our portal. BCA was recently informed by some developers that they were approached by Volunteer Welfare Organisations (VWOs), insisting they get their buildings upgraded to become barrier-free. They were glad that the Accessibility Information on their buildings was already available in our portal. Promotional • Helps to promote Silver Industry It helps in the development of Accessible Tourism and Medical Tourism. Local tour guides can use the information on the buildings to plan itinerary for older tourists or persons with disabilities without having to do a physical check. Foreign visitors with concern on accessibility could also check on the places/building before planning a visit and book a hotel. BCA has also received requests from VWOs and other portals owners, for a list of barrier-free accessible buildings available in Singapore. We often refer them to our friendly built environment portal and requested they hyperlink to our portal, for a centralised information resource. • Outreach Programmes BCA started its outreach UD Roving Exhibitions to Community Centres since 2008. It will be rolling out a UD Roving Roadshow to schools in July 2013. In summary, Time Frame Key Development and Implementation 1990 Implementation of the Barrier Free Accessibility (BFA) Code 2005 Formulation and Implementation of BFA Masterplan 2006 Government taking the lead in upgrading of public sector buildings Apr 2006 Inter-agency co-ordinating committee formed to resolve interconnectivity for areas that cross into jurisdictions of different government agencies. 2007 Inaugural BCA Universal Design Award 2008 Roving exhibitions at the community to raise awareness on accessibility Incorporate BFA as an integral part of the upgrading of private estates. October 2008 Launch of the On-line Accessibility Rating System and Friendly Building Portal. 2012 Friendly Buildings Portal provides links to other online micro-site such as the BCA’s “Unify to UDify” campaign to step up UD education to general public and young children. November 2014 Launch of “Find Your Friendly Building” smartphone application at Singapore UD Week. (538 words)

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The Friendly Built Environment on-line portal and Accessibility Rating System were initiated by BCA and developed through collaboration with the 3Ps sectors (Public, Private and People Sector. They include : 1) Public Agencies • Ministry of Social & Family Development (previously known as Ministry of Community, Youth & Sports) • Ministry of Culture, Community & Youth (previously known as Ministry of Community, Youth & Sports) • Ministry of Education (for schools) • Ministry of Health (for hospitals and polyclinics) • Housing and Development Board (HDB) – (for Singapore’s Public Housing) • Land Transport Authority (LTA) – (for MRT Stations) • National Parks Board (NParks) - (for Parks and Playgrounds) • National Environment Agency (NEA) - (for Markets and Food Centres) • National Library Board (NLB) - (for Libraries) • People’s Association (PA) – (for Community Centres and Clubs) 2) Volunteer Welfare Organisations • Council for Third Age • Handicap Welfare Association • Society for the Physically Handicapped 3) Institutes of Higher Learning; and As it is a time consuming process in auditing so many buildings, tertiary education students were being deployed. This portal has therefore provided a useful platform for nurturing the young on the concept of UD. They also benefitted from the practical experience by participating in the audit and plotting the access route map for the buildings. 4) Building owners (219 words)
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The Friendly Built Environment Portal and the Accessibility Rating System (ARS) are developed and maintained in-house by BCA’s Universal Design Department (UDD) involving about 9 officers and with support from other departments in BCA (e.g. Information Technology Department (ITD)). The officers in UDD are mainly trained in architectural, engineering or building designs. Students from tertiary institutions are also enlisted to audit buildings and build up the database for the ARS. In addition, BCA’s Senior Management (i.e. our CEO, Deputy CEO (Building Control) and Group Director (Building Plan and Management (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. (118 words)

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
No. 1 The Friendly Built Environment Portal was designed with a vision to be a virtual UD Hub where the public, the private and people sector comes together to advance the UD movement in Singapore No. 2 The promotion of UD and improvement of the built environment is important and it needs support from all sectors. In Singapore, there is always a negative perception by certain sector of the population that the government websites are meant to be a propaganda tool for some government agenda. Many a times, good intentions had been read with suspicion. With this in mind, the Portal was developed with deliberate intention to have a more “playful and friendly’ look. The accessibility to the site by persons with disability was also considered. To ensure continued interest of the Portal and participation, the design and contents need to be relevant at all times. The portal has since undergone its first revamp in 2011 and will be revamped again by end next 2014 to encourage greater participation and interaction. As at April 2014, the Portal has reached 25,300 hits. It has proven to be relevant and useful as evident in the following: No. 3 The public can visit the website for information on the availability of user-friendly facilities within the buildings they intend to visit. Besides accessibility facilities information and the profiles of the ARS audited buildings, the portal also provides each building with a location map, a building profile map and an access route map, to show the nearest connectivity point to public transport nodes. The portal is able to assist the general public to plan their route the moment they step out of their homes. • Design professionals often visit the portal to retrieve UD guidelines and information for their design use. No. 4 The Portal is useful in supporting Accessibility Tourism and Medical Tourism. It enables foreigners to check on the accessibility level of hotels and places of interest before booking hotel. It also helps local tour agents to plan the itinerary for tourists with mobility challenges. In 2012, BCA’s Friendly Built Environment Portal was endorsed by the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) (http://www.accessibletourism.org/) as a good practice which makes travel and tourism accessible to all. No. 5 The batches of interns that participated in our UD audits will be our long term supporters and ambassadors on UD in their future workplace. (398 words)

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
BCA has in-house staff who administer and manage the online portal. In the audit of buildings, BCA also deploys interns from tertiary institutions to assist in building audits. The audit information is checked and verified with the building owners before publish online. In doing so, the awareness on the importance of accessibility is spread not only to building owners, but also the young who will be our future leaders, building designers and managers. To ensure information on buildings posted on the portal are up todate, BCA UD department regularly engages key building developers, including public agencies such as Housing and Development Board, People’s Associations, National Environmental Agency. They are regularly reminded to check on the information of their buildings. Had they carried out major retrofitting works, they could remind BCA to revise the rating from say “one sun flower” to “three sun flowers”. In addition, BCA also regularly engages stakeholders such as VWOs and the tourism industry to understand how the portal can be improved to serve their needs. (169 words)

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The initial list of buildings to be featured was for those frequently accessed by members of the public. As this was a voluntary exercise, the initial response was not favourable. To overcome this, BCA took the initiative to collaborate with many government agencies and private sector organisations to feature all the public buildings under their care. For example, our work with the Singapore Hotel Association saw a list of Hotels giving us permissions to list the UD information available in the hotel buildings. We also approached developers to seek their permission to audit and upload the accessibility information. To develop a comprehensive portal, information must be readily available. The following obstacles encountered, indirectly led to the problems encountered: Upgrading of Existing Private Sector Buildings One of the key challenges is that many of the older existing buildings are constructed before the implementation of the Barrier Free Accessibility (BFA) Code in 1990. This has resulted in such buildings being inaccessible, unless major retrofitting works are carried out to implement BFA features. To encourage the upgrading of these buildings with at least basic accessibility, there is the $40 million Accessibility Fund to co-pay the cost of upgrading of up to 80%. BCA has been working closely with building owners and managers to incorporate BFA features at the key leisure and business areas in Singapore eg. Orchard Road (major shopping area). Lack of Public Awareness on Accessibility and UD The lack of public awareness on accessibility and UD has resulted in weak demand for accessibility and UD features in buildings from the general public and building industry. To raise Public & Technical Awareness and Capabilities of Industry, the Portal and the ARS are implemented to reach out to the general public using the internet. Courses and workshops on accessibility and UD are organised. (300 words)

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The Portal created outside the BCA’s official website do well in setting a non-official tone with people- centric design and presentation to promote, inform and educate the general public and the industry. It has proven to be relevant and useful as evident in the following: • The general public can visit the website for information on the availability of the user-friendly facilities within the buildings they intend to visit, prior to visiting the building. Besides accessibility facilities information and the users-profiles of the ARS audited buildings, the portal also provides each building with a location map, a building profile map and an access route map, to show the nearest Connectivity point to public transport nodes. The portal is able to assist the general public to plan their route the moment they step out of their homes. • Design professionals often visit the portal to retrieve guidelines, information and examples pertaining to Universal Design for their design use. • The Portal is useful in supporting Accessibility Tourism and Medical Tourism. It enables foreigners to check on the accessibility level of hotels and places of interest before booking hotel. One local Tour Agency commented that it helps them to plan the itinerary for tourists with mobility challenges without having to do a physical check on the suitability of the building/place for older persons and persons with disabilities. • For building owners, it makes business sense for them to be featured at our portal. BCA was recently informed by some developers that they were approached by Volunteer Welfare Organisations (VWOs), insisting they get their buildings upgraded to become barrier-free. They were glad that the Accessibility Information on their buildings was already available in our portal. • BCA has also received requests from VWOs and other portals owners, for a list of barrier-free accessible buildings available in Singapore. We often refer them to our friendly built environment portal and requested they hyperlink to our portal, for a centralised information resource. • OneMap and SGData each has a set of friendly buildings information since 31 March 2012 • The portal and the ARS provide a platform for training the young- in particular the interns from Universities and Polytechnics and Junior Colleges. For the visually impaired readers, the portal allows font sizes to be enlarged or reduced. Background and words colour contrasts can be reversed to enhance readability. For the blind, the portal is structured in such a way that they can use their talking browser software to read scripts off the screen. A special feature, “View in Universal Design” button, was programmed such that the visually-impaired can access the no flash version as immediately as they log into the webpage. (445 words)

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
To sustain the initiative, a whole-of-government effort and medium to long term targets were set to address the issues of BFA as follows: • For public housing where 80% of population resides, the goal is to implement BFA in all housing estates by 2011. A blog by the Minister for National Development indicated that the BFA works were completed at all existing HDB estates by November 2012. All new public housing estates are built with barrier-free access features. • As for public transport, 100% of the public train stations have been retrofitted since 2006 and are barrier-free today. It is targeted for 100% of the bus fleet to be wheelchair accessible by 2020. • Target for 55% of all commercial and institutional buildings to incorporate basic BFA features by 2015. To-date, about 54% of commercial and institutional buildings is fitted with at least basic barrier free accessibility. • To achieve the goals of raising awareness and creating demand, BCA has put in place a comprehensive and sustainable program of initiatives which rely on robust building regulatory framework (through legislation), government take-the-lead approach (garner commitment from Heads of agencies) and effective outreach (through multi-channel including online portal, roving exhibition, seminar and BCA Gallery). The portal also made use of other online portals to feature and disseminate this friendly buildings listing. Two such portals are OneMap and SGData. OneMap is an integrated map system for government agencies to deliver location-based services and information. It is a multi-agency collaboration with many government agencies currently participating and contributing information. SGData is the first-stop portal to search and access publicly-available data published by the Singapore Government and brings together over 5000 datasets from 50 government ministries and agencies. Each of these portals has a set of friendly buildings information since 31 March 2012. With OneMap easily available on Smart Phones and tablets, the general public will be able to utilise the information of friendly buildings which is readily available to plan their route before they leave their homes more effectively. BCA is also in the process of working with the Tourism industry to enhance this portal to be used locally and internationally. Many countries face the same problem of an ageing population as Singapore. Singapore, unlike USA, UK and Australia, has no anti-discrimination legislation which the public can depend to compel building owners to carry out accessibility upgrading. Therefore, countries that face the same predicament as Singapore can explore to introduce or replicate a similar Portal to provide a virtual one-stop information centre on Accessibility and UD for members of public in particular persons with disabilities and family with babies and young children. This information hosted on the web is useful for everyone (including overseas tourists) to access and plan their route. (457 words)

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Collaboration with the public and private sector The portal would be difficult to roll out without the support and assistance from VWOs and the private building owners. To overcome their initial reluctance, BCA took the initiative to collaborate with all government agencies and private organisations to feature buildings under their care. After 3 years, these owners are more confident and forth coming in getting their buildings featured in the portal. They are also more willing to speak on providing UD features in their buildings. The Need to nurture the young to continue the UD Journey One spin-off from this portal development is the platform to nurture our younger generation on the need to create an inclusive built environment. Since April 2008, high school and tertiary students in building related studies (such as architecture and facilities management) and allied health studies (such as occupational therapy and psychology) were recruited to form part of the audit team. They also gain practical experiences by participating in the audit process and plotting the access route map for the buildings. Many commented that they were never aware of the needs and purposes of the UD provisions, until they had their internship with us. The Need to create more awareness The portal is continuously being improved and upgraded, for it to remain relevant. To reach out to a wider group of audience, social media features are made available to allow BCA to attract visitors to the portal to be informed on the promotion activities. To reach out to persons on the move, a mobile version of the “Find Your Friendly Buildings” was launched in November 2014. BCA is also in the process of working with the Tourism industry to enhance this portal to be used locally and internationally. Therefore, countries that face the same predicament as Singapore can explore to introduce or replicate a similar Portal to provide a virtual one-stop information centre on Accessibility and UD for members of public in particular persons with disabilities and family with babies and young children. This information hosted on the web is useful for everyone (including overseas tourists) to access and plan their route. In 2012, BCA’s Friendly Built Environment Portal was endorsed by the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) as a good practice which makes travel and tourism accessible to all. The portal provides information on the UD development in Singapore and has led to several enquiries from overseas agencies wanting to learn about the BCA’s Accessibility Masterplan. It was also through the Portal that the an agency in Hong Kong learned about the BCA’s UD Mark Certification and sought permission to use our UD Mark checklist to develop similar certification system in Hong Kong. Lastly, an important strategy to maximise benefits while minimising risks in the implementation of this one-stop information Centre – The Friendly Buildings Portal would be the continual collaborative efforts with VWOs and stakeholders, working together to create an inclusive built environment. (489 words)

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Building and Construction Authority
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Grace Chng
Title:   Executive Manager for Organisational Excellence  
Telephone/ Fax:   65-325-5007
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   grace_chng@bca.gov.sg  
Address:   5 Maxwell Road #17-00 Tower Block MND Complex
Postal Code:   069110
City:   Singapore
State/Province:   Singapore
Country:  

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