Codes are everywhere. Codes that address the health and wellness of occupants, safety, energy performance—the list goes on and on. And designers and developers have to track, understand, and then synthesize these codes into their designs—no small task.
Fortunately, groups like the Equal Rights Center are attempting to make the process easier. Here, Melvina Ford, the executive director of the Equal Rights Center, talks about the organization's newly launched Fair Housing Checklist App, which lets general contractors, architects, developers, and other professionals access key parts of relevant building codes on-site.
With just a smart device, a user can walk a property and quickly determine critical measurements and diagrams to make sure the project is built to code. This ability is incredibly important, Ford notes, with 50 million people ages 55-plus entering the housing market and looking for housing that's ready for them to age in place. Additionally, Ford says, one in five Americans already lives with a disability, further underscoring the need to increase the amount of accessible housing available to people with disabilities.
It’s critical to consider these design accommodations during the construction phase because it costs much more to retrofit a project than to include the desired items from the beginning. The app thus helps capture the correct measurements for hallways, counter heights, and ramp slopes in front of the building.
—Deryl Patterson, president, Housing Design Matters
"Today, there's far more awareness of the Fair Housing Act," says Deryl Patterson, president of architecture firm Housing Design Matters. "But awareness isn’t the same as knowing the exact details of the code, like clearances, clear floor areas, acceptable slopes, et cetera. This app is so handy and extremely useful. Since no one can memorize every minute detail in the Fair Housing Act, this puts it right at your fingertips in a clear and concise way. Not only can builders and architects use it in the field during construction, but architects can use it as quick verification with building officials and clients."
Patterson also calls it the most useful app on her phone and points out that having access to that information and following the codes provided is a great way to keep firms and clients out of future litigation.
“The app is a pretty good tool for work in the field, both for construction crews and architects doing construction administration,” says Manny Gonzalez, principal, KTGY Group. “If you're walking the site and aren't sure if what you're seeing has the right clearances, being able to pull something up on your phone would be a great asset.”
From there, Gonzalez points out that there are still layers that need to be understood and incorporated into design, including local interpretations of the Fair Housing Act, such as California’s standard for safe harbor. Gonzalez also cautions that there are requirements to keep in mind based on funding provided by the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards.
And, that’s exactly where Ford is headed. She says that, in the future, the Equal Rights Center wants to incorporate state and local building codes so that everything's all right there—at the tip of a finger.