Universal Design Research Group

Our research

Head of research group: Sidse Grangaard

The right to equal access and participation in public space applies to everyone, regardless of age and ability. People with disabilities especially face many barriers in construction. In addition, the population is becoming more diverse and older.


Increased user diversity requires new knowledge about the needs of different users to determine which solutions are best for whom and in which context. What new user needs arise with the increase in the population of older people? What is the significance of the construction process in terms of a beneficial solution for everyone, and who is responsible? How do we ensure new knowledge on how accessibility and universal design are best integrated into the programme and construction process? What competencies are required to ensure that everyone is included in the built environment?


The research addresses three primary themes: users, solutions, and process. The research aims to gain nuanced knowledge and understanding of users’ needs and, through universal design, to map the relationship between sensory, cognitive, and physical impairments across age for the beneficial design solutions, including the nuances in the design solutions. Diversity in user needs requires diversity in solutions. More knowledge is needed about the importance of daylight, acoustics, and wayfinding in relation to specific user needs.

The research also covers mapping of the beneficial solutions, including the importance of context, use, and function and the evaluation of existing buildings, including both housing and public access construction in general. In relation to both evaluation and development work, the focus is on qualitative and quantitative testing of user needs and design solutions. A quality assurance tool is being developed to assess a beneficial solution in terms of both accessibility and universal design, which includes the nuance of user needs, function, and context. Research also aims at documenting the importance of universal design and accessibility in construction for the individual user and community.

The research related to the construction process includes the evaluation of architectural competitions, building programmes and construction processes, the actors’ responsibility and role, communication and knowledge gathering, and the importance of value and attitude for the final design of the process and construction. In addition, the concepts of accessibility and universal design explore the importance of construction in understanding and interpreting equality, inclusion, and quality in the built environment.


The research team collaborates closely with all users of accessibility and universal design knowledge, including authorities, construction partners, user organizations, and other educational, research, and knowledge institutions. International cooperation on the development of the research field is central to the group’s work. Therefore, the group also cooperates with international research and educational institutions.


The research is communicated directly to the key players in the field: builders, advisors, user organizations, and users and is included as a knowledge base for building regulations and various instructions. In addition, the research is used directly in AAU teaching. 

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Research focus

  • Spatial design, daylight, wayfinding, etc. ​
  • Usability​
  • Architectural and sensory quality​
  • User needs, involvement of users and understanding of users
  • Design process​
  • Building legislation
  • Healing architecture