Making a building user-friendly is not just about having ramps or handrails, but also helping people find their way about and giving them spaces to relax.
These principles of "universal design" are captured in the 31 projects being awarded the Building and Construction Authority's Universal Design Mark this year.
"In the past, you concentrated on wheelchairs and Braille," said Mr Chin Chi Leong, director of BCA's building plan and management group. "Now... (it's about) making our built environment more friendly to everyone."
CapitaLand condominium The Interlace, for instance, has many landmarks and distinctive features in its courtyards to help visitors and residents navigate.
It is one of two projects which achieved a Universal Design Mark Platinum - the highest possible award - this year.
The other is Gardens by the Bay. Judges lauded its maps and signs, as well as family-friendly facilities such as nursing rooms.
Both developments also do well on accessibility, of course.
Among The Interlace's 1,040 units are 131 with elder-friendly features.
For instance, bathrooms do not have a step at the entrance, so residents with wheelchairs or walking aids can enter easily.
"We are trying to build homes that last, where people can stay and age in place," said Mr Eng Tiang Wah, CapitaLand Singapore's vice-president of design management (residential).
Similarly, Gardens by the Bay's two conservatories and its 22m- high Skyway feature gentle ramps as well as lifts and walkways wide enough for wheelchairs and prams.
The BCA Universal Design Mark is a voluntary certification scheme that replaced the old Universal Design Awards in 2012.
Previously, developers just submitted projects for assessment.
"Now, we are encouraging them to think about it from an early stage," said Mr Chin. The BCA provides a detailed checklist of universal design features which developers can consult.
This year's winners will receive their awards on May 22 at Resorts World Sentosa.
This article was published on May 12 in The Straits Times.
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