Implementing UD in a University Residential Facility
The Effectiveness of Universal Design in Buildings
There are significant problems in studying the impact of universal design (UD) in buildings. It is not usually feasible to control for factors that may introduce confounding influences, e.g., the age of a building, occupancy type, programs occurring in the building, size, etc. There are few buildings that have a full complement of UD features. Finding buildings with many UD features requires significant effort. In previous research, we resolved these issues by comparing specific features in buildings, rather than comparing entire buildings. However, in this case we were interested in developing a case for accreditation using draft UD Standards for Commercial Buildings. Thus, we needed to develop methods to study how UD makes a difference at the scale of the entire building. The purpose of the study was to determine if the UD Standards improve usability, convenience and safety for all people (including people with disabilities) who use residential life facilities and buildings in general.
Post Occupancy Evaluations of UD Buildings
This project is a component of the 2010-2015 Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Universal Design and the Built Environment (RERC-UD). During the previous RERC-UD cycle, early drafts of the UD Standards for Commercial Buildings were used to design four buildings, one of which is located on the University at Buffalo’s North Campus. During this cycle, we had the opportunity to compare assessments of the newly constructed residential life building, Greiner Hall, with assessments of similar features in a nearby building that was not designed using the UD Standards. RERC-UD researchers evaluated the buildings through a post occupancy evaluation (POE), which included three methods of data collection: 1) focus groups, 2) guided tours (a form of focused interview completed as part of a tour of a building) and 3) an online survey.
UD Standards Help Improve Residential Life Facilities
The results provide information for improving the design of dormitories and other residential life facilities including information on student preferences, usability, convenience and perceived safety. Additionally, the findings will be used to improve the UD Standards and to establish a model for continuous development of the evidence base for the UD Standards.