June 22, 2021

Seniors turn to students to gain a better entrance

Schulich team provides accessibility solution for people with mobility issues
Capstone students meet with residents to talk about access to their building. Dylan Schlosser

Accessing Calgary’s robust rental-housing market is always a topic of conversation when it comes to availability and value.

However, one aspect rarely discussed is the issue of physical access to some of the older buildings.

While they complied with the building codes from when they were constructed, buildings with difficult-to-access entries and exits create issues for people with special mobility requirements.

A team of Schulich School of Engineering students hope they have the solution to help bring about change and improve accessibility with its Engineering Design Fair entry.

Ramping up

Dylan Schlosser says the issue was first brought to his attention by a resident of a seniors-living home, who was hoping the engineering team could redesign the main entrance and improve accessibility of their building for residents using wheelchairs and walkers.

Schlosser, along with Syed Hamdan, Dominik Zuczek and Andrew Howe, went to the building to get an idea of what they were working with.

“Some residents even had us try their wheelchairs and walkers so we could experience the issues for ourselves,” he said.

From there, the team developed three unique conceptual-designs to present to the residents and facility-management for feedback.


A rendering of the final design.

The capstone project team

“We selected the final design based on what would work best for their needs and continued to iteratively improve it based on feedback from the management team,” Hamdan added. “Along the way, we had to solve problems to ensure our design worked within the project constraints, including code requirements, bylaws, storm-water management, access for emergency services, and cost effectiveness.”

Building change

While building management has yet to make a final decision on how to proceed, the student team is grateful to be able to work on something that will make a difference for residents.

“Our favourite aspect of this project was the practicality of it and the real-world effect it may have,” Zuczek said. “We enjoyed the opportunity to work on a project with a high chance of it being implemented and pushed-through to construction.”

The work done by the team wasn’t lost on Dr. Markus Dann, PhD, an associate professor of civil engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering.

“In the end, they developed a cost-effective solution that improves the accessibility of the building,” Dann remarked. “The chance is very high that the proposed solution will be implemented in the next couple of years – a win-win for everyone.”

Howe believes the blueprint they created in the process will serve them well in the future, as it opened their eyes to the needs of the community, the value of collaboration, and how innovative solutions can be used.

“Spaces should be accessible for everyone, and this might mean you have to go above the minimums prescribed in the building codes and regulations,” he said. “In the case of our project, this involved the provision of a flat walking path and low ramp slopes, something that could easily be implemented in other buildings and infrastructure.”