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Inclusive Design Rating (IDR) Toolkit. The design and assessment tool for tailoring environments for everyone.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - IDR TOOLKIT (Inclusive Design Rating (IDR) Toolkit. The design and assessment tool for tailoring environments for everyone.)

Reporting period: 2020-08-01 to 2022-07-31

Project Summary
Europe is ageing and the changing needs of the population are constantly shaping the way we live and interact in communities and environments.
When we design an environment, we have to ensure that the design process allows to create solutions that meet people’s needs and aspirations. Designing buildings that are sustainable whilst supporting the comfort and well-being of occupants has been a prominent factor in recent years. However, more work to develop safer and more accessible buildings needed to be done. Research reported that Inclusive Design is generally misunderstood by architectural design professionals. This represents one of the underlying factors that characterizes the design of buildings that do not fully meet the needs and expectations of a diverse audience. Therefore, how can we design environments that guarantee inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility for all?
With this project directed by Dr. Matteo Zallio with Prof. John Clarkson from the University of Cambridge, in collaboration with the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement N° 846284, we aimed to tackle these imperative challenges by using a mixed-method approach grounded in ethnographic research.

Research objectives
1.Investigate main stakeholders’ perspective: architects, designers, engineers, builders, planners and end users (focusing on older adults and people with disabilities) in order to develop:
a. Holistic understanding of inclusive design features/characteristics for environmental accessibility
b. Knowledge on clusters of user capabilities to highlight macro areas of interest to support professionals to better understand user needs in relation to environmental accessibility
2. Brainstorm solutions to develop a toolkit/framework to support stakeholders to systematically tackle environmental accessibility issues

Project goals
1. To help designers, architects, engineers, contractors promoting and implementing inclusion and accessibility features when they design or redesign different built environments
2. To democratize awareness among clients and final users about inclusion and accessibility as tools to guarantee high standards of living

Research outcomes
1. An ontology of accessibility features and user capabilities to help brainstorm more inclusive concepts for built environment designs (see outcome publications)
2. A toolkit to inform a decision-making process that helps design and engineering professionals to design and redesign environments according to accessibility and inclusivity criteria (see outcome: IDEA Toolkit, renamed from IDR toolkit, composed of the Inclusive Design Canvas and the IDEA Audit)
The work performed
During the project period the following steps and work has been performed by the researcher.
1. (Qualitative study): Desk research on the state of the art (literature review on housing features and
user capabilities). OUTPUT: conference publications.
2. (Qualitative study): One-to-One interviews with design professionals (sampling size: 20-25 users) to
understand pain points when designers need to understand user needs and then transfer in to design requirements for accessible environments, what are the main guidelines they use on a daily basis, how do they interact with a client, how do they promote accessibility when they design or interact with a client. OUTPUT: conference and journal publications.
3. (Quantitative study): Survey (sampling size 100-150 design professionals) to validate pain points discovered during the consultation and design process: designer/user. OUTPUT: technical report and journal publications.
4. (Qualitative study): Co-design workshops (sampling size: 20-25 users) to develop the IDEA Toolkit to help the design professionals to brainstorm inclusive designs and to assess the inclusion and accessibility of built environments. OUTPUT: conference and journal publications.
5. (Mixed study): Validation: test the IDEA toolkit according to usability criteria with professionals and with organizations. OUTPUT: test and evaluation reports and consultancy for different organizations.
During the project period other than research activities the candidate published a total of 22 academic papers, of which 7 conference papers, 7 journal papers, 1 technical report, 5 monographs, 1 book chapter (see list of papers attached), delivered 42 public engagement activities (workshops, lectures, seminars, podcasts), interviewed in 4 podcasts, 20 research training activities and received 23 academic appointments and awards(see list of dissemination activities attached), and developed a website for community engagement.
A recent study found that accessibility is overall recognized and embraced in architectural design practice, however, the adoption of Inclusive Design is limited so far. This challenges was further validated with a large-scale survey in which around one out of ten survey respondents reported that clients and building owners are well informed about the benefits of designing inclusively. As a result of this biased perception the scarcity of client’s awareness was understood as the dominant driver of the insufficiency of clients’ requests and limited design of inclusive, accessible, equitable buildings. To find a possible solution to tackle these challenges and help increase knowledge of Inclusive Design the research team, with the support of several expert stakeholders, developed the IDEA Toolkit, a set of tools to advance Inclusive Design in the AEC (Architecture, Engineering, Construction) sector and across different organizations.
The IDEA Toolkit is composed of the IDEA Audit which helps building industry professionals and business leaders to collect feedback from building occupants on inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility with a scientific approach. On the other hand, the Inclusive Design Canvas supports teams in developing community engagement exercises and co-design processes by considering the variety of human capabilities and needs to redesign spaces and teams with a more inclusive approach. With the IDEA Toolkit researchers, building owners, design teams, developers, facility managers, tenants and organizational leaders can achieve a baseline of understanding of what people feel in regard to inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility, clearly identify pockets of inconsistency and use data to decide how to address challenges with bespoke action plans to improve the built environment or develop HR policies that effect a positive behavior change and promote a culture of well-being.
Early-stage validation results with the company Motionspot UK proved that these tools represent an impactful advancement in the field of Inclusive Design for designing environments that are inclusive and guarantee diversity, equity, and accessibility for all4.
The IDEA Toolkit seeks to democratize the process of understanding the value of Inclusive Design by increasing awareness and education about inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility across all people and geographies. To this end, the IDEA Toolkit not only offers the opportunity to discover the possibilities of inclusion but has the potential to become a form of social sustainability for future generations through various engagements with different companies.
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