More and more residential and commercial buildings in the GTA are being designed to be accessible and barrier-free.
When constructing any building in Ontario, builders must comply with the Ontario Building Code and in 2015 the Code was updated to include more accessibility requirements for new office, industrial and multi-residential buildings.
According to Statistics Canada, about 15 per cent of the population has some form of disability.
Now, the building code requires that 15 per cent of homes within a new multi-unit residential building have a barrier-free path. Doors and hallways have to be wider to allow room for a wheelchair and ramp dimensions have been updated to make new buildings easier to access. For people who have low vision, there are new requirements for tactile walking surfaces that indicate the top of stairs and platform edges.
Also required under the updated Code is the installation of visual fire and smoke alarms. As well, there has to be barrier-free access in between storeys in most buildings, and building entrances, barrier-free washrooms and common areas like party and movie rooms in condominiums need to have power door mechanisms.
It takes an innovative design approach to incorporate accessible aspects into new residential buildings. Designing accessible units, wider hallways and other elements can be challenging especially in mid-rise buildings where space is already limited.
Rockport Group has a multi-faceted revitalization project starting construction this summer at Weston Road and Lawrence Avenue called The Weston Hub and 22 John Street. It’s a collaboration with the City of Toronto, Artscape Toronto Inc. and Woodbourne Capital Management Inc. that will rehabilitate a vacant building into live/work spaces, a community cultural hub and add a 30-storey market rental building to the site next door. Both buildings will be accessible with ample corridors and wider suite entryways and other aspects.
In The Diamond on Yonge in North York, Diamante Urban Corp’s building, 10 per cent of each type of unit is barrier free. This allows homebuyers to choose their suite knowing it will have a barrier-free path throughout and at least one washroom will have space for a wheelchair to fully turnaround.