Commercial and institutional buildings must go barrier-free when undergoing additions and alterations

Existing commercial and institutional buildings will have to include improvements to accessibility when undergoing additions and alterations.
Existing commercial and institutional buildings will have to include improvements to accessibility when undergoing additions and alterations.ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

SINGAPORE - Existing commercial and institutional buildings will have to include improvements to accessibility when undergoing additions and alterations (A&A), under new rules that will kick in next year.

The new rule covers buildings such as offices, schools, malls and food centres. When such buildings undergo A&A works, they will also have to make the entrance barrier-free with either a ramp, stair-lift or platform lift, and provide at least one accessible toilet.

While newer buildings have incorporated the philosophy of universal design - designing to meet the needs of all users - there are still older buildings which are not accessible, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong noted when announcing the change.

Legislation to make buildings barrier-free was introduced in 1990 but applies only to new buildings.

The public sector will take the lead, but for private sector buildings, about one in four existing commercial and institutional buildings is still not accessible, he noted.

"We need to accelerate the progress of our accessibility improvements for existing infrastructure and for existing buildings," he said at the opening of the annual Singapore Universal Design Week on Wednesday (July 27) morning.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) will further consult stakeholders on the details of the new rules before they are implemented. The exact date they will kick in has yet to be announced.

Mr Wong also announced other moves to encourage efforts to make buildings more accessible.

The BCA will extend the $40 million Accessibility Fund for another five years to March 2022, extend its scope to cover more features such as braille signage for the visually-impaired, and allow building owners to tap the fund twice instead of only once.

Towards the end of the year, a new award will be introduced under the existing BCA Universal Design Mark voluntary certification scheme. The BCA is working with the Ministry of Social and Family Development for this new BCA-MSF Universal Design Mark for Family-Friendly Businesses. This will go beyond physical facilities to look at business and service aspects too.

And a new Universal Design Guide for Public Places has been launched, giving the industry a reference for the sort of features they can include.

The authority is also raising awareness of universal design with a touring exhibition in the heartlands in the coming months, and a special vehicle that will visit over 120 primary schools this year.