Universal Design Research Group

Our research

Head of research group: Sidse Grangaard

Activity and participation are generally physically situated, and therefore the design of the built environment determines the opportunities for participation that are offered. This applies to all people regardless of age, gender, functional capacity and ethnicity. Age is a particularly important factor, because our needs change as we age. The Universal Design Research Group researches how the built environment can be inclusive and health-promoting for everyone.

Need for New Knowledge

Universal design, inclusive architecture and social sustainability are updated by virtue of the principle ‘Leave no one behind’ from the UN's 2030 agenda. Here, it is precisely a matter of not leaving vulnerable groups behind and including all people to achieve a sustainable society where everyone can participate and contribute, even if they have different abilities and needs.

With regards to the Danish context, there are two factors in particular that result in a need for more knowledge. With a Building Regulation that has taken a step towards performance-based requirements, it is no longer sufficient to incorporate solutions based on simple considerations, which are solely aimed at a fraction of users rather than for all users. Therefore, knowledge is required about user needs and good examples, but also knowledge about how to ensure an ideal process, where users' needs are incorporate from the start as part of the architecture, from the program to the design and when placed into service. The second factor is the demographic development, which has created an increased need for knowledge about how good physical parameters can be created for the elderly and for those suffering from dementia. 

Research Efforts

The interaction between users and the built environment, both indoors and outdoors, regardless of scale, is the point of departure for the research group's efforts. This means that the human body is considered as a whole, with sensory, cognitive, physical needs and abilities considered. We continually work to become wiser about this interaction, both in terms of needs, but also about how the built environment can support and stimulate. We do this through studies, evaluations and tests. Our approach is primarily qualitative and has many methodological aspects, from anthropological fieldwork and interviews to interventional studies and measurements. 

The group works within three main themes: users, solutions and processes.

  • The research aims to clarify the knowledge about and understanding of users' needs and experiences. Diversity in user needs requires diversity in solutions, and the research includes, i.e., more knowledge about the importance of daylight, wayfinding and scents regarding the users’ well-being and opportunities for participation. 
  • The efforts in terms of solutions apply to both new construction and existing buildings. Focus is on publicly accessible buildings and places as well as housing.
  • The research process is broadly approached and ranges from the building framework and working practices to user involvement and development of methodologies.

Collaborators

Through the public sector services, The Universal Design and Accessibility Research Group continuously contributes to the Danish Housing and Planning Agency's efforts regarding regulation and guidance with a knowledge base. Together with the Danish Association of Construction Clients, The Universal Design Research Group facilitates Networks for Universal Design and Accessibility. In addition, the group's members are active in various networks and centres, e.g., the Centre for Democratic Aging Research.

Use

The group's research is disseminated internationally to peers - and nationally to the construction industry. The Universal Design Research Group launched the website www.rumsans.dk, a website about universal design, which is financed by government funds for social purposes via the Danish Housing and Planning Authority. The purpose of the site is to inspire, qualify and influence a change in the construction industry's attitudes and practices towards universal design. In addition, The Universal Design Research Group contributes to the Institute’s dissemination via SBi Guidelines and courses. The Master of Inclusive Architecture 

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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