Jones Court the new headquarters of RNIB CYMRU CIB

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Jones Court. The new headquarters of RNIB Cymru/CIB A building that functions for its community

Jones Court. The new headquarters of RNIB Cymru/CIB A building that functions for its community The Royal National Institute of Blind People Cymru/Cardiff Institute for the Blind (RNIB Cymru/CIB) move into Jones Court, Womanby Street, Cardiff has provided the opportunity to develop an exemplar building which helps demonstrate best practice in inclusive design to meet the needs of blind and partially sighted people. Womanby Street is one of the oldest streets in Cardiff which originally linked Cardiff Castle to the quay. Jones Court, which leads off Womanby Street, was built by the Marquis of Bute to house labourers who were involved in the expansion of Cardiff docks. Now Grade 1 listed, Jones Court is the last remaining example of Cardiff’s 19th century housing courts. Prior to acquisition by RNIB Cymru/CIB, Tuffin Ferraby Taylor (TFT) was instructed to prepare a pre-acquisition survey report for Jones Court which identified a number of accessibility issues that would make it difficult for people with a range of disabilities, including those who are blind and partially sighted, to be able to move around the building safely and independently.

New reception area

Contrasting colours and textures of wayfinder flooring to ramp

Front elevation before work commenced Front elevation and main entrance after the project completed Due to the site’s central location, excellent public transport links and the need for blind and partially sighted people to use the building, the RNIB Cymru decided to develop the building as a working example of a building designed to Visibly Better standards. This means that the building can be fully-accessed by the blind and partially sighted and showcase the work of the RNIB’s Visibly Better and Independent Living teams. The RNIB wished to consider their refurbishment options to make the property a ‘Centre of Excellence’ for blind and partially sighted people. TFT therefore produced a feasibility study and associated cost plans, for consideration. This included a study for the insertion of a passenger lift in the building to reach the split upper floors, completing wheelchair access to all areas of the building.

Reception before work commenced

Reception after the project completed

The structural work at Jones Court involved reducing the ground floor levels at the front of the building to provide level access off Womanby Street, including underpinning of some of the external walls. The split 1st and 2nd floor levels were altered to accommodate the new passenger lift and access stair. The internal refurbishment included an internal office fit-out to all floors, renovating the two stair cores and provision of an accessible wet room, including WC and shower facilities.

Stairs before work commenced

Stairs after the project completed

This is a building where getting the details right matters, dictated by a good understanding of what needs to be put in place in and around a building to promote the safety and independance of blind and partially sighted people. For example, new floor finishes incorporating contrasting colours, accessible signage with Braille and tactile features, artwork, planters, textures and materials were installed to promote multi-sensory way finding around the building. New internal doors with leading edges that contrast against the face of the door, highlight the position of the door when it is open. Contrasting seats to all WC’s help the partially sighted locate and determine the seat’s position.

A themed colour was introduced for each floor level to help occupants and users orientate themselves. In addition, the Light Reflectance Values of the adjoining surfaces were carefully selected to ensure they contrasted visually with their surroundings.

Split floor level before work commenced

Contrasting door furniture and lippings

Split floor level after the project completed

Visibly Better kitchen

Contrasting colours and textures of way finder flooring

To meet the building’s proposed new use as a friendly, accessible and welcoming place, particularly for blind and partially sighted visitors, a new glazed entrance lobby and reception was created which would then lead into the CIB’s Resource Centre and public activity room at ground floor level and on the RNIB’s offices on the upper floors.

External steps before work commenced completed

External steps after the project

We have advised on ways of mitigating future building obsolescence. From January 1st 2015, it will be illegal to used recycled or reclaimed R22 HCFC refrigerants in air conditioning systems. Their cost will also be very expensive in the interim so the air conditioning system was replaced with a more sustainable solution.

Ground floor before work commenced Ground floor after the project completed

Undercroft before work commenced

Undercroft after including accessible parking bay and guide dog area after the project completed

TFT worked in collaboration with the RNIB’s own Access Consultants to ensure the design principles met their Visibly Better Accreditation Scheme, allowing the building to become a working case study for the RNIB and to demonstrate best practice to others. Visibly Better Accreditation is a hallmark of good practice and recognised by the Welsh Government. Whilst most commercial buildings are subject to compliance with Approved Document M of the Building Regulations when refurbished, Approved Document M is limited in the guidance it gives regarding visual accessibility. The Visibly Better Accreditation goes beyond the requirements of the current Building Regulations. With nearly 100,000 people in Wales living with sight loss and with this figure expected to double over the next 25 years, Jones Court, and the Visibly Better standard achieved will serve as a showcase to housing providers to ensure their properties, services and staff are able to meet the needs of this growing population in a simple and cost-effective way.

Tuffin Ferraby Taylor LLP 8 St. Andrew Street Cardiff CF10 3DD 029 2039 00 99

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