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Moving Towards the Universally Designed Home: Part 3

The Turning Diameter of 1.5 Meters Was Retained, But Not for All Dwellings


Research at the Norwegian Universal Design Research Laboratory at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology was instrumental in the process of revising the building regulations as reflected in the final result:” Regulations on Technical Requirements for Construction Works “ [1]. The following sections show how the regulations ultimately dealt with turning diameters.

The turning diameter for wheelchairs was kept at 1.5 meters in buildings for public use and dwellings. By contrast, 20% of the dorms for students are required to be accessible with turning diameters of 1.3 meters since these dwellings usually are small and temporary. To compensate, each floor is required to have larger toilets with better accessibility.

All apartments larger than 50 m2 (60 yd2) must be accessible to a standard compatible with universal design. If a housing project consists of apartments smaller than 50 m2, 50% of these must be accessible.

[1] Regulations on technical requirements for construction works. The Norwegian Building Authority, Oslo 2017

An English translation is available on https://dibk.no/globalassets/byggeregler/regulation-on-technical-requirements-for-construction-works--technical-regulations.pdf


Figure 2 Turning diameter. Illustration from Guidelines to Regulations on technical requirements for construction works 2017.

[1] Regulations on technical requirements for construction works. The Norwegian Building Authority, Oslo 2017

An English translation is available on: https://dibk.no/globalassets/byggeregler/regulation-on-technical-requirements-for-construction-works--technical-regulations.pdf


Realizing the Shortcomings of the Turning Diameter as a Basic Design Measure

The report from the Norwegian Universal Design Research Laboratory brought to light a fact that accessible design professionals knew well, and which has been elaborated by research at the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access at The University of Buffalo in the US. The turning diameter is a simple and pedagogical way of explaining and regulating the space requirements for turning a wheelchair, but it does not represent the actual space needed to turn a standard selection of wheelchairs.

In the US, the T-turn has been introduced as an alternative to the circle. Based on the research at Norwegian Universal Design Research Laboratory, a turning rectangle is presented by the building authorities as an alternative to a turning diameter of 1.5 meters.


Figure 3 Turning rectangle. Illustration from Guidelines to Regulations on technical requirements for construction works 2017.

Mr. Jonny Nersveen, the initiator and research responsible for the laboratory, comments: Our studies show that a rectangle with a width of 1.3 meters (51 inches) and a length of 1.8 meters (71 inches) may be used as a general requirement for turning a wheelchair in dwellings. If attendant wheelchairs are used our studies show that a rectangle of 1.6 meters (63 inches) x 2.0 meters (79 inches) is required to turn the wheelchair.


We need be innovative, look beyond the turning circle and take the next steps where the actual need for space and movement patterns are taken into consideration. I believe it is necessary to put designers to work extensively on finding better ways of creating universally designed dwellings. I am very much concerned with the design of the bathroom. The movements in bathrooms is exceptionally dependent on the choice of inventory and the layout of the room.

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