Retrofitting and renovating to improve accessibility in office buildings and K-12 schools

A mockup of the cover of the Retrofits and Upgrades Cost Study.

Inclusive design benefits everyone. Unfortunately, many of our schools and workplaces were not designed to accommodate a diverse set of needs in a dignifying, intuitive way. The good news is that retrofitting and renovating these buildings to improve accessibility can be both feasible and cost-effective.

This study, a collaboration between hcma and the Rick Hansen Foundation, reveals that you can achieve RHFAC™ Gold under the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC™) program for less than an estimated 0.5% of the replacement cost of an office tower, and less than 1.5% of the replacement cost of a K-12 school (each built between 1974-2019). This translates to $1.50 per square foot for office buildings, and $9.00 per square foot for K-12 schools.

Strategic planning and facility management can increase the feasibility of completing upgrades. When upgrades are amortized or completed over periods of five, 10, or 15 years, those costs drop to as low as ten cents and sixty cents per square foot, respectively. Ongoing investment in building maintenance and upgrades is standard. Setting aside cents to prioritize accessibility in these upgrades is a small ask with a significant impact.

In our evaluation, we found that 64 of 99 potential upgrades (65%) for office buildings cost $50K or less. For K-12 schools, 117 of 167 potential upgrades (70%) cost $50K or less. These upgrades include things like moving furniture and other obstacles, updating signage, adding colour contrast, and upgrading door hardware and washroom accessories.

Building owners and operators, accessibility and design professionals, advocates, and decision-makers all have a role to play in creating a more inclusive world. This study can help you do just that.

Learn more by downloading the report, RHFAC™ Retrofits and Upgrades Cost Study.

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