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Universal Design as Social Sustainability

Universal Design as Social Sustainability
Fall 2017 SABMag ConEd Article
GBCI: 0920014254

This article argues that, to reflect societal values of democracy and inclusivity, buildings must be designed to be accessible to all. This in turn implies that universal design must be seen not as an optional add-on, but as an essential and integrated aspect of all aspects of the built environment.

The author proposes that strategies for ‘mainstreaming’ universal design may be seen as similar to those that have successfully changed our thinking about environmental sustainability over the last 20 years.

Case studies explore how accessible design complements environmental and social sustainability, and how such examples can demonstrate to governing bodies, the general public, and to architects and designers the benefits of meeting the accessibility needs of everyone.

Learning Outcomes
On completion of this learning unit, the reader will:

  1. Understand and appreciate how universal design strategies can improve the accessibility and functionality of buildings for all members of the community.
  2. Understand and appreciate how universal design strategies can enhance the wellbeing of building users by relieving stress and anxiety.
  3. Understand and appreciate how early implementation of Universal Design strategies can improve the life cycle performance of buildings by reducing the need for retrofits and facilitating ageing in place.
  4. Understand and appreciate how, by incorporating universal design strategies, green buildings can demonstrate to design professionals and the public, the synergies between environmental and social sustainability.

Narrative about Learning Outcomes
In response to the request, the learning outcomes were reviewed and the general language originally used was replaced with more specific language relating to the objectives of green building design. E.g. enabling all members of the community to access and use a building effectively improves the utilization and efficiency of a building, while reducing anxiety levels in those who would otherwise experience difficulties. Also, incorporating strategies for aging in place has a direct life cycle benefit, as it reduces or eliminates the need for future rehabilitation and adaptation.

All articles offered by SABMag are GBCI approved. To qualify for continuing education learning hours, practitioners must first read the technical article below, and then proceed to complete the short quiz at the end. You must receive 80% on the quiz to record the activity as part of your continuing education. An email will be sent to you and will act as your certificate of completion once you have successfully completed the requirements.

In order to obtain your CEU Certificate of Completion for this course (1h CE):

STEP 1 : Read the article Universal Design as Social Sustainability (PDF format)

STEP 2 : Take the quiz and get a minimum of 8 out of 10 correct answers to receive your Certificate of Completion.

Quiz by: Susan Ruptash, Managing principal, Quadrangle Architects


The most important drivers of universal design are:


Incorporation of universal design strategies into buildings is currently hindered by:


Legislation introduced in Ontario proposes changes to the built environment that will make the province entirely accessible by:


The Ontario legislation considers Universal Design to include:


Much of the momentum in the Universal Design movement comes from individuals and organizations who feel excluded by current approaches to building design.


From an environmental perspective, implementing Universal Design strategies at the outset of a project, rather than retrofitting at a later date:


Implementing Universal Design strategies is an important component in ‘future-proofing’ communities:


Universal Design strategies are necessarily intrusive and will detract from the appearance and appeal of a building:


Using the term ‘special needs’ in relation to Universal Design, will help increase awareness and advance the cause of accessibility.


It is advantageous and appropriate to think of the range of human abilities as:

Occupation / Business