Massey University Embeds Accessibility Across a Range of Building Projects

Demonstrating that it's never to late to incorporate accessibility.

A digital artist's impression of the new innovation complex at Massey University - showing a large building surrounded by trees and open spaces and people walking arouond

Recognised as the “innovation campus”, Massey University Auckland is well-known for its interactive and research-led approach to teaching. To meet growing student numbers, the University’s Albany East Precinct campus is currently undergoing a significant development. With construction well underway, the University engaged Be. Lab to provide an accessibility review.  

The review was in three parts:

  • an assessment of the newly completed extension to the Sir Neil Waters building;
  • a review of the final detailed design plans for the yet-to-be-built Innovation Complex building; and
  • an accessible route plan for the entire campus.

1. A silver-rating for the Sir Neil Waters building

The Sir Neil Waters building was extended in 2019, doubling the footprint to provide five additional teaching spaces on the first floor, and space to accommodate more than 100 staff and postgraduate students on the second floor.

Be. Lab carried out an accessibility assessment of the building and awarded it a Silver rating, with many accessible features noted. Such features included a welcoming internal route and layout, an ‘open’ button on heavy doors for automated entry, and lecture theatre rooms with audio and visual options to assist those who are sensory impaired. The assessment also armed the University with recommendations to make the space even more accessible in the future.

2. Final accessibility touches on the Innovation Complex building

Be. Lab also had the opportunity to provide a review of the final design plans for the Innovation Complex building, a 9800-square metre facility that will be the University’s home to science, innovation and research. The state-of-the-art building will feature teaching and research laboratories and collaborative working spaces.

The design plans were in the final stage with many decisions already made, but Be. Lab still provided useful recommendations on seemingly small details that will make a big impact. Such recommendations included ensuring stairs had colour contrasted and slip resistant nosings and displaying visual indicators on glass doors to highlight and reduce the risk of injury.  

3. Making it easy to get around campus

The third stage of Be. Lab’s consultation was creating an accessible route plan, firstly considering the existing site which was undergoing significant construction. With obstructions such as large fenced off areas, the University wanted to ensure there was a suitable alternative route for those with access needs. An accessible route plan was also created for when the new development will be complete.

Master Coach, Colleen Jones, considered how those with access needs would navigate throughout the University, taking into account footpath widths, any possible obstructions and uneven surfaces. Colleen enjoyed the opportunity to create an accessible route for the entire campus. “Usually accessible route plans are provided for individual buildings”, says Colleen, “but on this occasion, we had the opportunity to create a route plan for the entire campus which will be a huge help for students with access needs going forward”.  

Never too late for accessibility...

Despite the development being well under way when the University engaged Be. Lab, they were still able to offer valuable insights to improve accessibility. Doug Goodbrand, Massey University Project Manager, found Be. Lab’s service both professional and insightful. “Be. Lab provided valuable feedback in an easy to read format” he says, adding that Be. Lab gave the University confidence they were on the right track in certain areas. “It was appreciated that Be. Lab provided holistic commentary, including positive feedback on existing designs rather than simply providing a check-list of improvements”.

This is true to Be. Lab’s approach: empowering organisations to improve accessibility. He also claimed the University intend to incorporate the majority of recommendations to future-proof the accessibility of the Innovations Complex building.

The key take-away? No matter what stage of development, it’s never too late to make positive changes to improve accessibility.


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