In the Oireachtas Housing Committee on the 21st of June '22, Francis raised the challenges designers and developers face with minimum standards and the importance of improving Universal Design.
From my experience, Part M minimum standards in this country are typical of the norms which developers and designers work towards.
The norm is largely not to build outside those minimums, which is very difficult to do. As a designer, it is difficult to build outside minimums. It is virtually impossible. I have never been able to understand why our regulations are set at minimums. I know from teaching in the Dublin school of architecture in TU Dublin that many academics have tried to design an apartment to the minimums and could not do so. It is actually impossible. I truly believe academics and professionals would prefer regulations closer to universal design. However, and I say this with respect to all parties, it appears pressure comes from the construction industry. Political will falls shy of the will of the Department and the construction industry. I am happy to be corrected on that point but my experience to date is that there is resistance when trying to push for regulations that meet proper minimum standards.
Ms Lally said Part M was the barrier. Who has been implementing universal design in the Department? Why is there wheelchair resistance? Where is that coming from? Based on my experience in the academic space, this issue has passed through numerous Governments at this stage. I ask the witnesses to speak to the transition to universal design, and universal design plus, over the last 20 years. How can we assist them with that? There is a transition. I am aware of that because I have been involved in universal design as an academic and trying to put that into the education system. The minimums seem to be too minimum. There must be some resistance coming from somewhere so where is that coming from and how do we push it? I have not yet found an open consultation space that would allow us to inform the Department on how things probably should be.