Perhaps projects are getting faster and perhaps more defects are cropping up as a result, but there seem to be more and more requests for alternative performance solution reports by builders and architects.
Many construction professionals view an alternative solution as a concession report, which it is not. A concession can only be argued under BCA part D3.4, which is an area of a building that a person with a disability should not need to access due to the work and safety intent of this area.
Under the performance requirements, an alternative solution must adhere to equivalent equity and safety standards in accordance with the Deemed to Satisfy Provision of the BCA.
As a writer of alternative solutions, I do acknowledge that I have prepared alternative solutions for technical non compliances such as minor infringements in door clear widths, latch side clearances, ambulant cubicles and accessible toilets.
However what I will not accept or support is alternative solutions relating to life safety non compliances.
Stairs is a classic point of reference. This is where people with unsteady gait/mobility impairment can really hurt themselves. For example, I have seen an alternative solution report where a stair in a hospital had one compliant handrail and it was accepted that the other non-compliant handrail (that was too high) was OK as long as signage was used to direct people the nearby lift.
Whilst this sounds fine in theory, in practice it could be dire. Sometimes people don’t see signs. Sometimes people just want to use stairs. Sometimes people get in trouble where they are mid-way in using the stair and they have no option then to use the lift. Falls and injury could result.
The handrail could have been easily lowered to compliant height, however the builder judged it was too costly and shopped around for an alternative solution.
Alternative solutions need to be safe. They need to prevent people from falling, slipping, tripping or cutting themselves, especially those people that are fragile.
Private Certifiers must be vigilant. If an alternative solution is not safe, then they should not accept it.
Alternative solution reports, with regards to accessibility (BCA Parts D3, E3 and F2) can only be prepared by a fully accredited members of ACAA.