Why it matters

Inclusive environments are places that work better for everybody - whether that place is a school, office, park, street, care home, bus route or train station. An inclusive approach to planning, design and management is an opportunity to use creativity and lateral thinking to make places that reflect the diversity of people who want to use them. 

Inclusive environments are:

  • Welcoming to everyone
  • Responsive to people’s needs
  • Intuitive to use
  • Flexible
  • Offer choice when a single design solution cannot meet all user needs
  • Convenient so they can be used without undue effort or special separation and so that they maximise independence

Crucial to this is consultation with user groups, putting people who represent a diversity of age, ability, gender and community at the heart of the design process.

Inclusive design is the responsibility of everyone who works in the built environment: planners, those who commission new buildings and places, access consultants, designers, architects, engineers, surveyors, property owners and facilities managers.

An ageing population

The UK’s population is getting older. Housing provision needs to change to meet this rapidly growing demand. The HAPPI report identified wider benefits from developing good quality housing for older people including a reduction in health and social care costs, as well as freeing up of much-needed family housing.

Stronger communities

The quality of the built environment has a significant role to play in tackling social disadvantage. Nine out of 10 people use and value parks and green spaces, but minority groups tend to have less local green space and it is of poorer quality.   

Economic growth

An estimated £5.3bn in lost earnings is due to people who have dropped out of the workforce to take on caring responsibilities for older or disabled friends and family. Lifetime Homes  is a policy tool that helps planners and other built environment professionals understand the benefits of helping maintain independence in their own homes.

Buying power

According to Disability Rights UK, 83% of disabled people had 'walked away' from making a purchase, unable or unwilling to do so.  The most important factor was inaccessible premises. Other important factors that discouraged disabled consumers from spending were poorly designed products and staff who were not disability confident, were rude or appeared prejudiced.


The Equality ActNational Planning Policy Framework and guidance on building regulations all require new and existing buildings and spaces to provide access for all.


While inclusive design in the built environment is gaining ground, it is still not common practice. Often all that is asked for and delivered is the bare minimum to meet existing standards and regulations.

Building on previous Cabe work we have partnered with various organisations to build a hub of inclusive design best practice guidance for built environment professionals. It covers buildings and outdoor spaces, in all phases of development including planning, design and construction, right through to the management of those buildings and places. It is a collection of resources and we do not promote the use of one over the other.

Suggest a resource

If you would like to suggest a resource to be included in this hub, please send us a link and a short description explaining what the resource is, and who it applies to.

Inclusive Environments Hub

Find best practice guidance covering buildings and outdoor spaces in all phases of development.

Search the hub


Supported by the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Department for Work and Pensions and other partners, Design Council is creating new Inclusive Environment CPD training.

We are seeking partners to match-fund the initial government grant. Download our sponsorship brochure to find out how you can support this initiative. Our aspiration is to create the central place for people to learn and be inspired about inclusive design in the built environment.

Inclusive Environments CPD

Help fund the creation of inclusive environments CPD training materials.

Partner with us



Considering Inclusive Environments and how we rethink design Whether you are a planner, designer, a construction professional or a facilities manager, all of us who work in the built environment sector have a role to play in creating inclusive buildings, spaces and places that are welcoming to everyone. All of us who work in the built environment sector have roles to play in creating inclusive buildings, spaces and places that are welcoming.

News — 28/07/2015