Designing Neurodiversity-Friendly Buildings: A New Guide

PAS 6463: Design for the mind – Neurodiversity and the built environment was produced after substantial research into aspects of the built environment that cause problems for a surprising number of people.

Neurodivergent conditions include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyspraxia. Neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease are also covered

It is estimated that up to one in seven people in the UK are neurodivergent in one form or another, including 700,000 people with autism, 900,000 with dementia and 1.5 million with ADHD.

PAS 6463 covers buildings and outdoor spaces for public and commercial use, as well as residential accommodation for independent or assisted living. It advises on elements such as lighting, acoustics, decoration, flooring, layout, orientation, familiarity, clarity, thermal comfort and odours.

Neurodivergent and neurodegenerative people can often experience “sensory overload” when interacting with the built environment – ​​an overstimulation of the body’s senses leading to a feeling of being overwhelmed.

BSI Chief Executive Scott Steedman said, “Everyone deserves to experience the built environment in a way that supports their overall well-being and generates better health outcomes. The new PAS 6463 guidelines fill a gap in design practice by addressing the needs of people whose minds process information and experiences differently, extending the benefits of inclusive design to a new and important community. With PAS 6463, designers can now benefit from advice on lighting, decoration, acoustics and layout to support neurodiverse users of buildings and infrastructure.

Jean Hewitt, Inclusive Design Consultant at Buro Happold and technical author of PAS, added: “In addition to designing places to suit our diversity of shapes, sizes and physical abilities, there is also a deep need to design for the neurological difference. Since my first involvement in this field in 2009, I have hoped for progress for the many neurodivergent colleagues, friends and family whose lives are needlessly ruined by places that don’t work for them. Some have a formal diagnosis, but many do not; there are also many neurotypical people who are more mildly but regularly affected by day-to-day environments, perhaps triggering instabilities, migraines, or experiencing additional daily stress from things that are not intuitive or comfortable for them.

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“My learning throughout the process of developing this SAP leads me to believe that at least 30% of the population is negatively affected by things that could so easily be adjusted or eliminated during design, procurement and management without any financial implications This PAS is an opportunity to ask everyone involved in the built environment to carefully consider this normal neurological diversity of humans rather than just meeting basic regulatory requirements – places should be comfortable to visit and use without encountering distress or emotional difficulty. I am very happy to have participated in the development of this guide to help make this the case for many more people.”

Companies supporting the guidelines include Transport for London (TfL) and the BBC.

Simone West, TfL Inclusive Design Advisor, said: “TfL is proud to have played a central role and contributed from a transport perspective in leading the production of these design guidelines and standards. We hope this is just the beginning and that research can continue to help increase our knowledge and understanding of what makes environments better for everyone. As a public agency whose services are used by millions of people, we understand the importance of ensuring better built environments for neurodivergent clients and colleagues.

BBC Bureau Director Alan Bainbridge said: “We are always working hard to make our buildings as inclusive as possible, and our new BBC Cymru Wales Broadcast Center lives up to that aspiration with its neuro-design. inclusive innovative. We are proud to have been able to share our planning experience with our peers and contribute to this important direction.

Forbo Flooring Systems was also involved. Karen Wilding, Marketing Communications Manager, said, “At Forbo, we believe in creating better environments; spaces that have a positive impact on the planet and above all on people, which is why we are proud to have supported the development of the new BSI standard, PAS 6463.

“Through our previous work and experience with the Dementia Services Development Centre, we know the positive impact that informed design considerations, such as tonal contrasts, can have on how people use, interact and react. to a space. As such, the launch of this new standard is an important and huge step forward for the industry. We look forward to seeing how designers will use these tips to create truly inclusive and positive spaces. »

PAS 6463 Design for the mind – Neurodiversity and the built environment – ​​Guide downloadable from

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Marjorie N. McClure