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Angela Roennfeldt

Our birthday Standards Heroes have been nominated by their peers to represent all our contributors - individuals we consider to be the real heroes of standards, in Australia and internationally. We thank those who contribute their knowledge and expertise, service, and time to Standards Australia for the benefit of the Australian community.    

Angela Roennfeldt is an architect specialised in the design of accessible built environments for people of all ages, gaining recognition with a National Disability Award for her achievements. Angela has also been recipient of the prestigious AV Jennings Churchill Fellowship. She has been a longstanding contributor to and now the Chair of ME-064 Access for people with disabilities committee, ME-064-01 Fixtures and Fittings for accessible housing and ME-064-02 Wayfinding.        

How did you become involved in standards development? 

I first became involved in standards development after completing a Churchill Fellowship. My Churchill Fellowship included opportunities to look at adaptable housing in Scandinavia, the USA, Canada, The Netherlands and the UK and Helen McAulay from the Australian Council for Rehabilitation of Disabled (ACROD) in the ACT introduced me to the Adaptable Housing committee at Standards Australia. I then subsequently became the Royal Australian Institute of Architect’s representative on the ME-064 Access for people with disabilities committee.    

What role have standards played in your career?   

The majority of my career has been focused on the provision of enabling environments for people with disabilities, and older people.  I have been involved in the design and or briefing of new residential aged care developments, dwellings for people with disabilities, public buildings, retirement and rehabilitation accommodation.  Involvement in the development of Australian and international standards has enabled me to share my knowledge and learnings from projects in which I have been involved and learn a significant amount from colleagues on the standards committees. This knowledge has enabled me to continually challenge existing assumptions about the provision of built environment outcomes suitable for people with disabilities and continually aim for improved outcomes in built outcomes in which I am involved. I feel privileged to have been able to work with so many knowledgeable committee members and also to have been able to share my knowledge with others in my sector.    

What is a project you’ve been particularly proud to have helped deliver? 

All of the standards projects are a collaborative process.  I have been particularly proud to have had the opportunity to work with others in the development of standards relating to communication for people who are deaf or hearing impaired and wayfinding.  The alignment of AS1428.1, General requirements for access, and the alignment of that standard with the Disability (Access to Premises -Buildings) standards and the National Construction Code (NCC) was also a highlight as it provided an opportunity for consistency in outcome in the built environment for people with disabilities and also enabled builders, designers and property owners to have some certainty that they were providing suitable environments.

Outside of standards development, what have been some highlights of your career? 

The awarding of my AV Jennings Churchill fellowship enabled me to visit many examples of small scale accommodation for older people with memory loss and adaptable and accessible housing overseas.  This opportunity significantly influenced my career as it broadened my outlook on what was possible to provide outside the constraints of funding models and current norms in Australia. By knowing what was possible to achieve, it gave me the ability to contribute to conversations about care and funding models and how the built environment outcomes could push the boundaries to achieve better outcomes to suit the needs and wishes of those who would ultimately reside in or use the accommodation.  
I received a national disability award for my involvement in accessible housing and my involvement in the development of innovative accommodation for 10 people with an acquired brain injury.  This project is a personal highlight in my career as it involved extensive briefing as the building owner representative, with people with an acquired brain injury and their families and friends, academic research, insights from my standards committee involvement and working with Allen Kong Architects to realise the innovative design and ultimate built outcome. Understanding that the building continues to meet the needs of the occupants over ten years later is particularly encouraging. More generally, I see my greatest achievement so far as being able to influence the provision of more dignified, less institutional and human scale and human friendly outcomes in residential aged care, retirement living and accommodation for people with disabilities.

What do you think the future of standardisation looks like? 

Building design and construction into the future will still require standards and particularly the standards produced by the relevant Standards Australia committee ME-064. There is a need for continual and on-going education to inform new generations of designers, builders, building surveyors and building owners about the reasons why building compliance in accordance with the AS 1428 suite of standards is vital to enabling people with disabilities to continue to be able to access jobs, entertainment, meals with friends and every other life situation that people without disabilities take for granted. Consistency of application of the requirements within the Australian Standards and on-going maintenance to ensure compliance means that a hearing augmentation system will work when someone who needs it goes to a performance in an auditorium, the correct application of tactile indicators will mean that someone who is vision impaired will be warned about a dangerous situation that may otherwise cause them significant injury or death and the provision of a wheelchair accessible environment will mean that someone who uses a wheelchair will be able to visit venues and use bathrooms, seating and all other spaces.  

I hope that in the future the increased use of technology may be able to be integrated within standards, but technology will not replace other requirements.  As an example, touch screens, which are becoming increasingly common due to their ease of implementation, are sometimes impossible for someone with a vision impairment to use. Destination control lifts are another example of smart technology that has the potential to reduce the independence of a person with a vision impairment.  Early involvement of with people with disabilities in the development of technology would ensure truly universal design.  

Is there anything you’d like to say or mention about Standards Australia’s centenary year? 

My involvement in the development of Australian Standards has made me aware that the work that the ME064 committee has been able to achieve with the dedicated Standards Australia project managers, committee composition and government involvement and support has enabled a higher percentage of the population to access the public built environment than in many other countries.  Many other countries do however have more advanced requirements for accessibility within general housing and the committees have more access to funded research so there are still many opportunities for further collaboration and improvements in the next 100 years.