To give an accurate insight on this project with Shoalhaven City Council, it’s necessary to step back in time. Three decades, to be precise!
In the 1990s, Steven was a Director with Edmiston Jones and was responsible for the design, documentation and construction administration of a new Administration and Depot building for the hydraulic services arm of Shoalhaven City Council.
In 2010, the building was added to in order to provide more office space, and in 2019 Steven was responsible for the concept design of a significant new building that consolidated some of Council’s assets from other locations onto this site.
With the creation of Alchemy Consulting in 2020, Steven has once again been engaged by Shoalhaven City Council to assess accessibility compliance of the original building and the new proposed development.
Understandably, with the passage of time, Australian Standards and Building Code requirements have changed. The original building complied with the Standards at the time, but in some aspects, it no longer complies with 2020 Standards.
So what does this mean for our most recent project with Shoalhaven City Council?
The updates in the Australian Standards and Building Code requires an assessment of the Performance Standards of the National Construction Code and provision of a Performance Solution that assesses the technical requirements of current and previous Standards. Following this assessment, the Performance Solution identified that even though the existing building does not comply with current Standards in some aspects of accessibility, it can still satisfy the objectives of fair and equitable access to and within the building.
It’s worth noting at this point that it is not always possible for an older building to comply with current standards. On some occasions, the building may be of heritage significance which does not accommodate modern improvements to meet compliance.
Access professionals need to objectively and reasonably assess existing buildings, and the impact of potential changes to the building, in terms of previous compliance, heritage issues or cost implications. This is required to determine if changes can be made, or should be made, to provide the most accessible solution possible, in the context of the existing building fabric and the current Standards.
As a personal comment, it has been a privilege to work with Shoalhaven Water again, almost 30 years after the first design, with some of the original staff.