On Saturday 19th November, Skanska's Atrium 2 office building won the 'Warsaw Investment without Barriers' award at the 21st Gala of Integration. “This is no accident that today, the International Day of People with Disabilities, we would like to declare that all our new office buildings will be developed as objects fully adjusted to the needs of people with disabilities, the elderly, parents with small children and foreigners. We welcome this an enormous social responsibility. Together with the Integration Foundation, we will create a completely new standard of building. We believe that this will serve as an inspiration for the whole market”, Arkadiusz Rudzki, Managing Director at Skanska Property Poland commented during the event.
Skanska was the first commercial real estate developer in Poland to submit most of its office buildings to a thorough accessibility audit, conducted by the Integration Foundation. This is the first such co-operation between a commercial developer and a foundation in Poland in terms of a building's accessibility on such a large scale. Such activities are crucial due to the still insufficient legislation regarding the principles of a building's design for people with special needs.
- Launching the development of buildings that are fully accessible for people with disabilities was an extremely important business decision for our company. Such operations require a great deal of empathy and understanding for the needs of people with disabilities at every development phase of the building – from the early design project to final completion. This also includes taking responsibility for the immediate surroundings of a building that we are developing, so that it can be equally used by everyone. We decided to engage architects, with whom we develop our investments, as well as employees of all departments at our company in the cooperation with the Integration Foundation. During an integration meeting held in the summer, we participated in an urban game during which we travelled through different parts of the city on wheelchairs or without the ability to hear and see. Only then were we able to understand what it means to be a person with disabilities. Thanks to such knowledge we are now well- positioned to develop places which are fully accessible – comments Arkadiusz Rudzki.
One of the first projects submitted for audit was Spark, an office complex being developed by Skanska in the Wola district of Warsaw. It was the first commercial object in Poland which was audited by Skanska in terms of accessibility solutions being implemented during the early design phase. The building is in with a chance of being recognized with an “Object without Barriers” certificate at the moment of being delivered for use. Atrium 2, which was awarded at Saturday's gala, is also applying for the title.
- The solutions that Skanska wishes to introduce in its buildings, and for which Atrium 2 was recognized by the jury, are simple but of crucial importance for people with mobility limitations or who experience hearing and sight impairments. We find a number of errors in office buildings on the Polish market. For example, entrances for people with disabilities also serve as evacuation exits and do not have door handles on the outside. Therefore, a disabled person needs to wait until he or she is “spotted” by someone from the inside. This is a conundrum which was solved in Atrium 2 by installing an intercom linking the entrance doors to reception. Another example is a centrally-coordinated lift system deciding which lift will ascend. Such systems can pose a challenge for a blind person who would need a voice message. Nonetheless, one can find such solutions in Skanska’s award-winning building. There are more examples but what is important is the willingness to reduce such challenges both in a building's interiors as well as in the spaces that surround it – said Kamil Kowalski, Accessibility Designer at the Integration Foundation.
The amenities which can be found in Atrium 2 and its surroundings confirming the building’s accessibility for all are also: its close proximity to public transportation, its sidewalk-level entrance, large lifts providing the ability to maneuver, clear visual information, bathrooms on the ground floor equipped with an emergency call system as well as the building’s tenants having the opportunity to use electric cars. Furthermore, the revitalization of space surrounding the building includes leveling the curbs in order to guarantee swift communication.
The audits for buildings and their surrounding areas, which Skanska conducted in cooperation with the Integration Foundation, comprise a basis for establishing a standard for accessible buildings that would be compliant with the highest international norms. It will be valid in all office objects developed by the company.