Building for Life is still the national standard because there is still an urgent need to drive improvement in our collective expectations for housing design. In the last decade national housing audits showed that up to thirty percent of all housing built shouldn’t have had planning permission, and a further thirty percent were just average. Building for Life can be used as a tool to actively test the quality of a design early on by assessing how it answers twelve key design questions. As a tool Building for Life 12 is designed to have ownership by communities, residents and developers. This shift in emphasis was used successfully in North West Leicestershire. In 2009 they adopted BFL as a standard in planning policy and made it into a place mark or quality award called Our Place. By persuading developers to use the standard themselves early in the design process and offering incentives to do well they were able to drive some really significant changes in overall quality.
Building for Life is set out in three sections covering three different scales of design; neighbourhood, place and street and each containing four simple questions: Integrating into the Neighbourhood – These are the neighbourhood scale questions these are about the give and take relationship between a new neighbourhood and existing settlements.
Creating a place – These questions focus on how the new place is being created and signals how new places are built up from a number of different components… sequences of buildings, types of streets, materials, form and the intelligent use of (and in addition to) existing qualities of place.
Street and Home – This last section is about the design of the street itself – about the careful integration of functions to create predominantly social spaces. It is a good idea to test a development early on. In fact, it could often help the quality of development if local authorities did a strategic BfL assessment of sites before any designs come forward. There are far too many missed opportunities in connecting new development into existing streets and footpaths. If we really want to make sustainable places, we have to get this right.
… … …