This paper investigates how architectural school competition juries assess Universal Design. The method used is a case study of 18 recent architectural school competitions in Norway. The results show that most competition briefs ask for Universal Designed buildings. In 8 of the 18 cases, Universal Design is mentioned as an assessment criterion. In 11 of the 18 cases, Universal Design is commented on by the juries in the jury reports, but only in 3 of the cases, do the juries assess this aspect consistently on every competition project. The overall impression is that some amount of uncertainty looms concerning how Universal Design should be assessed in the competition stage. Based on the findings, future juries should concentrate on orientation and overview prior to technicalities and details.
Norwegian legislation has requirements concerning luminance contrast for different elements in staircases. This paper investigates how architects work to meet the requirements, how to measure the actual built luminance contrasts and finally 21 staircases are measured using two different methods. The results show that some architects do not reflect on luminance contrasts at all, some use their "experience" and some try to measure the reflectance value of different materials during planning. The investigations also reveal that there is not any official predefined way to control luminance contrast, and this investigation shows that different approaches will give different results. To perform the measuring of the built staircases, it has been necessary to develop a defined measuring method. The results of the measuring generally shows that only a few of the staircases studied fully meet the legislation requirements.
In a larger perspective, this paper investigates architects' and contractors' attitude towards universal design in the competition phase of the largest school building projects. Three Design Build school competitions with negotiations and one limited architecture competition are examined in terms of to what degree the competitors are willing to invest in lifts. The Norwegian Building Code requires a lift in all public buildings with two or more storeys, and the lift should be easy to locate with its access close to the main entrance. However, a school building often has more main entrances, as the different age groups each tend to have their own entrances. This seems to put the competitors in a dilemma concerning the correct interpretation: Is it sufficient with simply the one lift at the official main entrance, or is it necessary with more lifts in connection with the entrances for the different age groups? The results show that despite the requirements in the Building Codes and the competition briefs, the competitors tend to prioritize lower bids in favor of optimal universally designed buildings. The results also show that any school design, with some reasonable effort, could reach a lift detour of maximum three minutes when using the calculation model applied in this research. However, from a lift user's point of view, any kind of detour may be experienced socially excluding and unacceptable.