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Considering Tactile Options for High Rise-Buildings

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Considering Tactile Options for High Rise-Buildings

With urbanization and growing populations, high-rise buildings are increasingly becoming common infrastructure across major cities in Canada. As buildings get taller, ensuring accessibility for people with vision loss becomes more crucial yet challenging. High rise buildings pose unique accessibility requirements due to their scale and additional safety factors involved. While codes provide guidelines, choosing the right tactile solution requires an in-depth understanding of the needs and limitations.


In this blog, we will explore various tactile system options suitable for high-rise buildings and how they comply with Canadian codes. We will also discuss key considerations and best practices for creating fully accessible indoor environments in tall structures. By the end, you will have a comprehensive understanding of choosing the right solution according to your project needs.


Code Requirements for High-Rise Buildings in Canada


Before looking at tactile options, let's review some key accessibility requirements for high-rise buildings as per Canadian codes:


  • The Ontario Building Code (OBC) requires all buildings with 7 or more floors to have accessible design features like elevators, ramps, door widths, fire-resistant tactile tiles, etc.

  • Similarly, the Accessible Design for the Built Environment standard (ANSI A117.1), followed by many US states, requires accessible features in buildings with an occupancy of 1000 or more persons or buildings four or more stories high.

  • Guidelines for the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) also outline accessibility provisions needed in buildings over 2 floors tall based on the estimated number of occupants.

  • Tactile Walking Surface Indicators (TWSIs) are mandatory in indoor common-use areas like lobbies, corridors, and stairs in high rises as per ANSI, OBC, and CSA standards.

  • Per the National Building Code of Canada (NBC) and NBC Emergency Lighting provisions, photoluminescent exit signs with Braille signage are essential for wayfinding in an emergency.

  • Additional slip-resistant and visible products may be required on wet area flooring as per slip resistance standards.


So, in summary, accessibility features become increasingly important with building height, as per codes across North America, to safely evacuate people during emergencies. Let's explore tactile options that meet all these code requirements.


Evaluating Tactile System Options


When choosing a tactile solution for indoor use in high-rise buildings, some key factors to consider include:


  • Material Strength—For durability, the texture needs to withstand heavy foot traffic and cleaning chemicals over the years without deterioration. Materials like engineered polymers are suitable.

  • Slip Resistance—Indoor tactile surfaces, especially in entrance lobbies and around amenities, need an R-value of 10 or more per the ANSI A137.1 standard to prevent slips on wet surfaces.

  • Emergency Evacuation - Tactiles and wayfinding signs must be visible during power outages to evacuate occupied areas safely, per NBC codes. Photoluminescent materials are ideal.

  • Ease of Maintenance - Solutions requiring less maintenance over time are preferable to minimize disruption and costs for facilities managers.

  • Cost Effectiveness - Initial and lifecycle costs are important factors for return on investment, especially in large installations spanning multiple floors.

  • Code Compliance - Solutions must meet all TWSI sizing, spacing, and contrast requirements of codes like OBC, A117.1, etc.


Given these criteria, the top options suitable for high rises include:


1. Engineered Polymer Floor Plates:


Modern polymer composite plates from AccessTile offer the benefits of stable dimensional properties, corrosion resistance, and maintenance-free surfaces. Engineered formulas ensure compliance with codes through rigorous testing. While polymer solutions have lower upfront costs, iron and porcelain options have greater longevity benefits for high rises.


3. Glued-Down Surface Strips:


Prefabricated polymer detectable warning strips can be adhered directly over finished flooring substrates in corridors, stairs, or landings through contact cement. They are suitable for residential towers and smaller commercial buildings. However, most codes don't allow peel-and-stick applications in high-traffic commercial spaces.


4. Photoluminescent Exit Path Markings:


Emergency signage with proprietary glowing pigments effectively light the way out even during power outages. When equipped with tactile letters, they actively contribute to evacuation of people with disabilities. Signs can adhere or be surface mounted based on location needs.


5. Slip-Resistant Stair Nosings:


Ecoglo aluminum stair nosings improve traction on stair treads and meet code minimum dimensions. Nosing strips integrate photoluminescence for safer nighttime evacuation from stairs.


Additional Considerations for High-Rise Implementation


Aside from code compliance, some additional factors warrant attention for high rise tactile implementations:


  • Emergency Preparedness: Tactile solutions need to withstand maximum building load or population capacity as per fire and evacuation plans.

  • Fall Zone Protection: Avoid surface-applied tactiles in areas over 2 floors high as per ANSI standards to prevent falls in case of de-bonding.

  • Aesthetic Integration: Porcelain and groutable cast tiles integrate seamlessly with modern flooring, while polymer options come in multiple hues.

  • Lead Times: Larger projects may require specialist fabrication or tooling with longer lead times for compliance.

  • Installation Disruption: Consider cleanup requirements and potential passenger inconvenience during overlay installations.

  • Maintenance Plans: Outline policies for periodic inspections, repairs, or touch-ups to maintain accessibility over the years.

  • Access Ramps: Address ramp-to-tactile transitions as per sloped surface provisions to avoid tripping hazards.

  • Signage Placement: Locate exit path markings and interior signs per the code-recommended mounting heights for ease of recognition.


Taking these aspects into account will result in a code-compliant, future-proofed indoor tactile solution aligned with your building's long-term operation and safety needs.


Frequently Asked Questions


Here are some commonly asked questions about tactile solutions for high-rise buildings:


Q. What is the usable lifespan of different tactile materials in high-traffic indoor applications?

Engineered polymers would last 15-20 years on average with minimal maintenance. Expect touch-ups or replacements as part of periodic maintenance plans.


Q. Can self-adhesive tiles be used instead of inset panels for overlay jobs?

While glue-down strips are inexpensive for renovation, most codes don't permit peel-and-stick surfaces in high-usage commercial areas like office towers due to the risk of de-bonding over time.


Q. Which tactile pattern is suitable for transitions between floors?

Combination directional/attention dome patterns help safely guide visually impaired people across level changes per A117.1 guidelines. Consider cast/modular systems for the seamless tiled interface.


Q. What evacuation signage is required in areas lacking emergency lighting?

Photoluminescent exit signs or floor markings that provide direction to exits even in no-light conditions per NBC. Braille labels further assist people with vision loss as per code.


Q. How often should tactile be inspected in high rises?

Annual inspections are prudent to identify repairs, with more frequent checks after major renovations. Keep maintenance records and address issues promptly to ensure uninterrupted accessibility.


We hope this in-depth blog has provided useful insights into considering the right tactile solution for your indoor high-rise building project while meeting all code and safety requirements. Choosing a durable, code-compliant system aligned with your specific needs will ensure long-term accessibility. Please get in touch with Tactile Solution Canada if you need any other information or have additional questions.