Barrier-free building with style, function & economy

Expert interview about barrier-free building in the hotel industry

Architect and degreed engineer Kornelia Grundmann, owner of gabana, the agency for accessibility, answers our questions about barrier-free building in the hotel industry.

Together with her husband Ralf, also an architect, Kornelia Grundmann advises as a judicially certified expert for barrier-free building, the building and tourism industry.
Their son Dr. Steve Grundmann complements the agency’s expertise in urban development and sustainability.

Because gabana focuses on trend-setting universal design: maximum comfort for everyone, genuine accessibility, elegance, economy and sustainability.

A further extra: gabana also advises and supports the marketing of barrier-free offers.

Is barrier-free building in tourism trend-setting and if so, why?

Kornelia Grundmann:Oh yes! Especially in times like these, hoteliers increasingly focus on the individual needs of their guests. This includes undoubtedly comfortable barrier-free offers. Before Corona, things like the quality of breakfast or the wellness area were key factors for the choice of hotel. Today, topics such as hygiene and space have become much more important. For me, both are part of barrier-free facilities”.

In addition, safety and user-friendliness, especially for the 65+ target group (already one in four EU citizens, and rising), is a major factor in the selection of tourist services.

Barrier-free building - bathroom

Spacious, elegant and hygienic – barrier-free building by gabana. Picture rights: gabana

What additional costs does barrier-free building cause?

Kornelia Grundmann: “In old buildings, this always depends on the necessary conversion measures. In new buildings, on the other hand, additional costs – in terms of total construction costs – are negligible. The only thing that becomes expensive are constructional errors, which can hardly be rectified afterwards”.

In new buildings, the additional costs are only one to two percent. Whereby they finance, among other things, roomy elevators or entrances without thresholds. Which are appreciated and used by all residents.

Barrierefreies bauen mit Nullschwellen Barrier-free building with zero thresholds

The zero threshold of Alumat proves: Barrier-free building simply looks better! Picture rights: Alumat, Copyright: Multivisualart

What are typical mistakes being made?

Kornelia Grundmann: “In the hotel industry, barrier-free access is often lacking, e.g. due to differences in level, existing stairs and doors that are too narrow. Or no possibility to access the sauna, the swimming pool or other facilities.
Incorrect installations in the bathrooms or beds that are too high, are also a reason for people with reduced mobility not to book a hotel.
In most cases these are avoidable mistakes, if considered already in the planning stage. That is why it is always worthwhile for hotel owners or operators to obtain appropriate advice in the early planning phase”.

We think: Those, who focus on barrier-free building, i.e. maximum user-friendliness, right from the start, and bring experts on board for this purpose, will be rewarded with a chic, consistent and well thought-out design. And will be able to provide a comfort loved by all guests!

This is no Barrier-free building

A negative example: Bare, ugly and then not even usable for people with a wheelchair: No angle bar and a support folding handle, which is mounted much too close to the door with a deep reveal, so that it is impossible for wheelchair users to open the door on their own! Would you have recognized these mistakes? Picture rights: gabana

Who confirms/certifies accessibility and how can you best communicate this?

Kornelia Grundmann: “Unfortunately we do not have a uniform certification in Austria. That’s why I recommend communicating the barrier-free offer in a detailed and easily comprehensible way on websites, in brochures and other channels”.

gabana developed information sheets about barrier-free offers in Austria for Deutsche Bahn (German Rail). They contain all the information that is essential for wheelchair users. You can find an example here.

Please give us examples of “barrier-free building with style”

Kornelia Grundmann: “For example in Pertisau at the Achensee. There, the hotel “Das Pfandler” is building three new barrier-free rooms in autumn 2020. In Heiligenhaus in Germany, the Hotel Neues Pastorat will open even 13 barrier-free rooms in spring 2021. And in the north of Germany, the Resort Stettiner Haff with 14 high-quality vacation homes is currently under construction. Here, the entire complex will be accessible. The first chalets will be available for bookings from December 2020.“

Do all these projects bear your signature and what makes them so special?

Kornelia Grundmann: “Yes, they were developed and designed by gabana. Especially in the hotel industry it is important to inspire your guests. For this to succeed, function, style and economy must be in harmony. We place special emphasis on fine details.
Currently we are working on attractive objects in residential construction, in a listed art nouveau house from the 1930s, a new office complex and several tourism projects”.

Barrier-free building Barrierefreies Bauen - Hotelzimmer

These barrier-free rooms in the Hotel Bichlhof in Kitzbühel are much sought after by all guests and are among the most frequently booked rooms! Picture rights: Hotel Bichlhof, Copyright: Multivisualart

Dear Mrs. Grundmann, thank you for the conversation and the impressive pictures!

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