Inclusive Design at the University of Canterbury Rec Centre

Identifying access requirements early in the design process enabled Architectus and the University of Canterbury to prioritise improvements that would make this development open and welcoming to all.

At the heart of student life is the University of Canterbury’s Recreation Centre, a multi-purpose facility that is used by thousands of students every year. With a new and improved Recreation Centre in the works, the University wanted to ensure the building would meet the growing needs of the diverse student community.

To achieve this goal the University commissioned Be. Lab to carry out an Accessibility Assessment of the Preliminary Design Plans. The assessment went further than simply noting minimal accessibility requirements but considered the building design through a lens of possibility and optimal accessibility. It was a smart decision to engage Be. Lab early on. Accessibility was integrated into the design from the get go, as opposed to being a costly afterthought.

Be. Lab Master Coach, Colleen Jones, first met with architecture firm Architectus to develop a strong understanding of the project before holding a Preliminary Design Workshop with the University. The workshop was essential in understanding the needs of different University stakeholders, including the Equity and Disability Services team. Crucial to the success of Be. Lab’s approach is gathering as much feedback as possible from stakeholders.

“To arrive at the optimal design solution, it is important to consider the needs and preferences of the wide variety of people who will be using the space”, explains Colleen.

The workshop also gave the team an opportunity to prioritise the recommended improvements based on the stakeholder feedback and how the space would be used. Balancing optimal accessibility with budget constraints is always a challenge which is why a robust system for prioritising improvements is needed. And doing this early in the process is key: if designs and budgets had already been set, it would have been very difficult to get the recommended improvements across the line.

Be. Lab’s work resulted in several accessibility improvements that will enhance the usability of the Recreation Centre in years to come. Doorways were widened, stairs were made accessible and vision panels were added to all doors. A large Universal toilet with an adult change table and hoist was also included at the request of the Equity and Disability Services team.


+64 9 309 8966
Be. Lab Office
(Temporary Premises)
Level 4
48 Greys Ave
Auckland Central
Auckland 1010

PO Box 874
Shortland Street
Auckland 1140
New Zealand