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Guideline I.9: Wayfinding and Universal Access


To ensure that buildings can be used by all regular occupants, visitors, and other users regardless of age, gender, culture, or ability level. Wayfinding enhances users’ experience with the building and facilitates movement to and within it, thereby reducing stress and supporting safety and security. This guideline supports the social and equitable aspects of sustainable design that ensure all people have access to high quality and high performance projects.

Required Performance Criteria

Guidelines apply to all New Construction projects and for Major Renovations that include relevant project scope.

  1. Exterior wayfinding:
    1. Provide signage (including verbal and pictorial communication) to identify parking areas (including for human powered vehicles), buildings, and entrances.
    2. Provide signage to clearly delineate accessible parking and access routes.
    3. Provide lighting on exterior including sign elements.
  2. Interior wayfinding: For projects with public access or for which the program includes regular visitors to the site:[1]
    1. Establish clear routes to common destinations, particularly destinations sought by visitors to the building.
    2. Identify all destinations using consistent language, color, or other cues.
    3. Use symbols and icons to bridge language barriers.
    4. Provide clear, concise, and consistent signs that have strong contrast and visibility.
    5. Provide adequate lighting for interior signs.
    6. Provide signs at decision points (places in which the navigator must make a decision such as whether to continue straight or turn).
    7. Identify spaces, groups of spaces, linking, and organization of spaces, and communicate with building users.
  3. Universal Design Principles: Implement at least three of the following in the design and operation of the project:[1]
    1. Equitable use: Ensure the building and site are useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
    2. Flexibility in use: Ensure the building and site accommodate a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
    3. Simple and intuitive use: Ensure the use of the building and site is easy to understand, regardless of user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
    4. Perceptible information: Ensure the building and site communicate necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
    5. Tolerance for error: Ensure the building and site minimize the hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
    6. Low physical effort: Ensure the building and site can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
    7. Size and space for approach and use: Ensure appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility.
  4. Provide at least one dedicated, reservable, lockable, private room that is accessible to all regular building occupants for lactation or other quiet use. The lactation room must include:[2]
    1. A comfortable chair with an accessible outlet.
    2. A sink.
    3. Counter space, waste receptacle, and hand cleaning supplies.

[1] Adapted from Inclusive Design in the Built Environment, Sandra Manley. 2016

[2] This guideline is aligned with credits available under the Fitwel Certification Program.

[1] Adapted from International Health Facility Guidelines, Part W, “Wayfinding.” 2017.

During Predesign and concept development, work with owner to establish wayfinding needs and strategy. Identify user groups who may rely on wayfinding when visiting or occupying the building. Develop and document a wayfinding strategy that works within project scope, budget, and design intent and can be applied consistently across the project.

Work with owner to establish universal design goals and select universal design principles that will be addressed in the project. Review strategies (see Additional Resources) that contribute to universal and inclusive design and select approaches that work within project scope, budget, and design intent.

During schematic design, document and describe strategies employed in project for at least three universal design principles. Document wayfinding strategy and implementation including design and placement of signage and other wayfinding cues.

Work with owner to determine number of and characteristics of lactation/quiet room(s). These spaces should be easily accessible and adaptable, and pleasant to use.

If post-occupancy evaluations are conducted, address issues that arise regarding wayfinding and universal access.


  • 9A: Preliminary site plan indicating signage location for all parking areas, building entrances, handicap parking and access routes.
  • 9B: Preliminary description of wayfinding strategies and execution.
  • 9C: Preliminary description outlining intended project compliance method and identification of at least three criteria project is expected to meet.
  • 9D: Preliminary building plan indicating location of LQR meeting guideline requirements.

Final Design:

  • 9A: Final site plan indicating signage location for all parking areas, building entrances, accessible parking, and access routes. Provide images of project signage and electrical plan for providing lighting as necessary.
  • 9B: Final description of wayfinding strategies and execution, including annotated floor plan indicating location of implemented strategies.
  • 9C: Description outlining project compliance method and identification of at least three criteria included in project design.
  • 9D: Final building plan indicating location of lactation rooms meeting guideline requirements.

AIA Best Practices for Lactation Room Design:

Design Resources: DR-01 Architectural Wayfinding. Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access, University of Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning:

Health Facility Guidelines, Part W, “Wayfinding Design Principles”:

Inclusive Design in the Built Environment Handbook and Training Videos. Design Commission for Wales:

Inclusive Design Standards. London Legacy Development Corporation:

Wayfinding Design Guidelines, Cooperative Research Centre for Construction Information: PDF Link.