BSI PAS 6463 Building Guidelines: Supporting Neurodiversity Through Workplace Design

PAS 6463:2022 represents a groundbreaking set of guidelines published by the BSI, intended to make buildings and environments accommodating for neurodivergent individuals. Here's what every company need to know about the future standard.

Why supporting neurodiversity matters

Bill Gates, Alan Turing, Greta Thunberg: the list of extraordinarily gifted individuals who have changed the world often intersects with a list of those officially or unofficially recognised as ‘neurodivergent’.

But historically, the needs of those who experience and interact with the world differently from others have not been supported in the built environment.  

“Until recently, design standards for the built environment have been developed to accommodate our diversity in form, size and physical ability, alongside variations in motor skills, vision and hearing. However, there remains a profound need to also meet our neurological diversity to prevent exclusion or discomfort to a significant section of the population.”

Introduction: PAS 6463:2022

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What is PAS 6463, and why is it so important?

The building guidelines PAS 6463:2022 (check out this free download)  published by the BSI aim to correct this imbalance and offer practical suggestions for more inclusive design.

This is the first global standard of its kind, focusing on inclusivity guidelines for conditions like autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia.

Who wrote PAS 6463:2022?

The PAS was developed collaboratively by industry experts and neurodivergent individuals led by Jean Hewitt from Buro Happold. Members of the steering group included organisations such as the Association for Dementia Studies, BBC Workplace, the Department for Education, DLUHC, RIBA, Sport England, TfL, and the inclusive design company Motionspot.

What does PAS 6463 cover?

Understanding neurodiversity

The guidelines begin with an explanation of the importance of designing for neurodiversity in the built environment.

The opening section is a clarion call to make spaces that respect individuals’ need for variation and control over sensory stimuli such as light, noise, temperature, odour and decor. For neuroatypical people, the authors say, these external factors can significantly impact individuals' ability to concentrate and contribute effectively to work and society.

The guide shows how designers and building managers can specify spaces that respect these needs and create more equitable public and workplaces:

Design principles for sensory sensitivities

PAS 6463:2022 provides specific design recommendations to address sensory sensitivities common among neurodivergent individuals.

Site and building layout

Guidelines for using subdued colours, managing visual contrast, and helping occupants avoid excessive time in dark places to reduce discomfort and sensory overload.

Acoustics and noise management

Shows how businesses can specify designs that minimise the impact of noise on individuals with sensory processing differences.


Divisio Acoustic Screenby Steelcase

Lighting and reflection

Could you provide some guidance on light, lighting, and reflection to create a more comfortable environment for individuals with sensory sensitivities?

Surface finishes

Recommend the use of matt or low-sheen surfaces to reduce sensory discomfort.

Spatial organisation and wayfinding

The guidelines highlight the importance of clear and logical spatial organisation to aid navigation for neurodivergent individuals. This encompasses straightforward layouts, clear signage, and the use of colour and texture to provide visual cues for more intuitive wayfinding.

Inclusive workplaces and educational environments

PAS 6463:2022 extends its recommendations to workplaces and educational settings, advocating for flexible and adaptable spaces that support various working and learning styles.

Steelcase Flex Acoustic Boundary

Role of technology

The guidelines acknowledge the crucial role technology can play in enhancing accessibility, suggesting innovative solutions like navigation apps and adaptive lighting systems to support inclusive design principles.

Application in public and community spaces

The document also addresses the design of public and community spaces, such as parks, libraries, and transportation systems, recommending modifications to make these areas more inclusive.

Implementation challenges and opportunities

PAS 6463:2022 discusses the potential challenges in implementing these guidelines, such as the need for a shift in mindset and the importance of collaboration across sectors. It also highlights the opportunities that inclusive design presents for society.

Best practice for building design and specification

  • Discusses PAS 6463:2022 best practices for building design, including.

  • Suggesting the use of accessibility and inclusive design specialists - as well as neurodivergent people from their organisation - to advise and feedback throughout the project lifecycle. 

  • Designate a champion for neurodiversity and sensory-friendly buildings.

  • Follow established frameworks like the RIBA plan of work.

Why is PAS 6463 so critical for employers and workplace designers right now?

The World Economic Forum reports that while 10 - 20% of the world’s population are neurodivergent, more than 80% of this number are currently out of work or underemployed.

This is a tragedy for many individuals. But it’s also proving to be a drag on economies worldwide as many gifted, educated, and intelligent people cannot function and thrive in standard business environments. 

For many businesses, neurodivergent people have the skills they need to face the disruptive challenges of the 21st Century.

“Neurodivergent workers are wired to think out of the box and gifted in skills essential for digital success. For example, people with ADHD have exceptional focus and problem-solving abilities. Similarly, autistic people are meticulous and have higher analytical thinking.”

Source: Gartner

Your chance to prepare for the future

This PAS (Publicly Available Specification) is not yet a standard in its own right, but it is likely to be one soon. 

However, as ensuring disabled access is already a legal requirement, it surely must be only a matter of time before the needs of neurodiverse people are acknowledged in workplace law,  too.

The BSI guidelines may foreshadow more formal requirements for equal treatment for those with diverse mental needs.

Leading companies such as SAP, Microsoft, HPE and professional services firm Ernst & Young LLP are already addressing strategic business issues by leveraging this often-overlooked pool of diverse, neurodivergent talent.

For many practical and business reasons, companies should consider how their workspace design supports neurodiversity. The PAS guidelines are a thorough, practical, eye-opening way to engage with this process.

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