In recent years, green building practitioners have begun to recognize that a building cannot be truly sustainable if it is not also accessible. After all, a structure that values human health and wellness should be welcoming to all occupants, regardless of ability, age, stature and so on.
USGBC is uniquely positioned to drive the connection between the green building movement and accessibility. One example is the LEED Design for Accessibility pilot credit, currently available for residential projects.
First proposed to USGBC in 2017 by Steven Winter Associates, Inc. (SWA), a firm recognized for its work in the areas of green building, energy and accessibility, the intent of the Inclusive Design pilot credit is to “Encourage the design of spaces that ‘empower a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation.’”
The credit was passed unanimously by the LEED Committees and is now live in the pilot credit library for LEED Building Design and Construction, Interior Design and Construction, and Operations and Maintenance projects.
What makes the credit so unique is its applicability to commercial buildings and how it goes far beyond the minimum regulatory and technical requirements of the building code for physical access and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Developed in cooperation among SWA, Cushman & Wakefield’s Todo Accesible program, and Hansel Bauman, architect for Gallaudet University and co-founder of its DeafSpace program, the Inclusive Design pilot credit requires community engagement and four of the following five categories:
- Physical Access: Demonstrate increased access beyond federal, state or local regulatory requirements, whichever is more stringent.
- Wayfinding: Implement strategies to help individuals navigate spaces with ease.
- Assistive Technology: Provide at least one technology to enhance functionality for all building occupants.
- Emotional Health: Include strategies to support mental and emotional health, such as the incorporation of nature, art, daylight, biophilic elements and strategies, and connectivity to outdoor space.
- Inclusive Spaces: Include specific spaces—including, but not limited to, lactation rooms, all-gender or family restrooms, fitness spaces and so on.
USGBC plans on adapting the pilot credit further for residential projects and refining it for specific sectors (health care, schools, etc.). The pilot credit’s uptake and content will be reviewed annually by the LEED Pilot Credit Committee.