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Rick Hansen Foundation, hcma reveal research on school and office accessibility through retrofits

DCN-JOC News Services
Rick Hansen Foundation, hcma reveal research on school and office accessibility through retrofits

RICHMOND, B.C. – The Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) and architecture firm hcma have published new research on costs and strategies for school and office accessibility through retrofits.

The study estimates RHF Accessibility Certified Gold can be achieved through upgrades in an office tower at less than 0.5 per cent of the replacement cost, and in a K-12 school for less than 1.5 per cent of the replacement cost on all buildings built between 1974 and 2019, a release stated.

“Understanding what it takes to retrofit existing buildings and schools is critical to achieving an accessible country for people of all ages and abilities. I encourage building owners, managers, and designers to take a good hard look at this new research which provides helpful data on the costs to recuperate an accessibility retrofit over time. The study also highlights the numerous ways to improve accessibility at no to minimal cost with the goal of more inclusive school and work environments for everyone,” RHF CEO Doramy Ehling said in a statement.

The study included 10 RHFAC rated office towers (base building spaces only) and 10 RHFAC rated schools, all built between 1974 and 2019 in B.C. and Ontario, in or near large urban centres, the release said. The researchers then developed prototype buildings based on typical conditions and features of these sites to determine average costs to retrofit.



Changes to improve school and office accessibility at no cost include relocating furniture and waste bins to create space and ensure adequate clear widths and turning aisles.

Minimal cost changes include introducing assistive listening systems at reception desks, adding braille lettering to directory boards and room signs, installing directional signs with prominent colour contrast and moving washroom accessories and dispensers to accessible heights and location, the release said.

Higher cost retrofits include upgrading fire alarm systems and accessible kitchens and universal washrooms.

“The cost to achieve a meaningful level of access is remarkably low when building owners amortize the cost over time. Owners are constantly investing money to maintain and update their buildings. Dedicating cents per square foot to make these buildings more inclusive should be standard and expected,” added hcma managing principal Daryl Condon. 

The full report is available here.

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