We talk to Ed Murray about the new inclusive room design for Holiday Inn Express Southwark

London hotel architects Dexter Moren Associates have worked with IHG & 4C Hotel Group to develop a fully accessible 48-bedroom extension to the Holiday Inn Express Southwark. Project Leader Ed Murray talks about working in close collaboration with accessibility consultants David Bonnett Associates to develop an unprecedented Inclusive Hotel design.

What was the brief from the client? The brief for the building was to produce a fully inclusive extension to the existing Holiday Inn Express London Southwark. Conceived in mid-2011 prior to the London 2012 Paralympics, the project looks to push the boundaries on accessible and inclusive design.  In addition to this we strived to introduce a number of systems to reduce the buildings carbon footprint, such as the rainwater harvesting system which provides water for the toilet flushing and irrigation to the green/living wall on the rear external elevation and the roof has an array of photovoltaic cells.

What has been your role on the project? DMA have acted as architect and lead consultant. Personally, I have been project leader on the job since it started on-site last January, working with the client, hotel brand and operator as well as dealing with the contractor and consultants on a day to day basis to get the job built, attending site meetings, meetings with sub-contractors and client progress meetings.

Accessible rooms have been a standard inclusion in hotels for many years. How do these rooms stand apart from the competitors? What have DMA done differently? One so often feels like they have got the raw end of the deal when you end up with an accessible room if you don’t need one and it can feel like you have ended up in a hospital rather than a hotel. Part of the brief for this job has been to really push these standards on inclusive design. To this end we have included removable grab rails where possible and a variety of different measures to try and lose what can often be a clinical appearance of an accessible room. All the while working within IHG’s Holiday Inn Express Brand Standards.

How was the scheme developed? We worked in close collaboration with David Bonnett Associates (DBA) who are Access Advisors for Inclusive Design within the London Plan, Jeremy Gardner Associates, Fire Consultants – and of course with the client 4C Hotel Group, hotel operator Redefine BDL and the Brand, IHG, to develop a scheme and way of working that allows our aim of providing what we believe to be an unprecedented Inclusive Hotel.

What have DMA done to ensure that the design actually works for people with disabilities? Did you create a mock up room? The project was partly born out of a R&D exercise undertaken by DMA in conjunction with DBA. An inclusive hotel forum and a focus group was formed, both of which include members from key user groups including the GLA with a focus on creating accessible rooms which really work for all guests. As well as creating a landmark project, it has been important to remember the Holiday Inn Express London Southwark is a popular property with all manner of travellers owing in part, at least, to its location.

As part of the construction phase we accelerated works to part of the Ground Floor to create two mock up rooms, an accessible and an ambulant room and got the forum and focus group along to review the room while the project was on-site so we were able to incorporate changes prior to the roll out on the remaining 46 rooms.

The extension provides 24 of the 48 new guest rooms to meet Approved Document M with the other 24 rooms over and above Approved Document M to be fitted out for use by people with ambulant disabilities. The wheelchair accessible rooms have Approved Document Part M (Building Regulations) compliant vanities and grab rails at the vanity, shower (with a removable shower seat) and toilet. The rail at the WC pan is removable and can be taken away when not required. The bathroom also has a fully wheelchair accessible, flush floor shower area. The hotel provides one bathroom per floor (a total 6 no. rooms) with baths which are also wheelchair accessible.

The Ambulant rooms are more akin to a standard Holiday Inn Express guestroom but they are designed with features to enable a greater number of disabled persons to use the room such as maneuvering space to allow ease of use to the bathroom facilities, which include a removable shower seat, integrated shower rails which double as a grab rail and a rail at the WC to allow a guest to stand up more easily.

This is perhaps the first hotel where DMA have introduced Ambulant Rooms, and we don’t believe them to be that common. They are a positive addition to hotel room options for guests with a range of disabilities.

Holiday Inn Express is generally a standard fixed room template. To what extent and how have DMA adapted this? Working with an existing building is always somewhat of a challenge with hotel bedrooms which tend to be built to a rigorous set grid. We actually managed to fit 5 hotel rooms across the existing buildings width each conforming perfectly to the Holiday Inn Express Standards between the existing columns. The other three bedrooms per floor are slightly more original, however owing fixtures and fittings they still work well as express rooms.

Why would someone want to stay in one of these rooms? Apart from being in a fantastic location a stone’s throw from the Tate Modern, the accessible rooms feature walk in rain showers and are particularly spacious.