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Building for Life faces major re-think

Building for Life’s (BfL) network of accredited assessors and points-based assessment system for housing in England has been abandoned ahead of a re-launch expected later this year

The flagshipped BfL annual awards have also been scrapped.

The revised BfL will be self-funded and will be more ‘finely grained and less subjective’ than its predecessor, a source said.

Currently under development, the protocol will be used as the basis for discussion between planners, developers and local communities, and will continue to be run in partnership by DC CABE, the Home Builders Federation and Design for Homes.

The system whereby local authorities were required to annually inform DC CABE of BfL point scores for schemes approved in their areas has been ditched, although councils and house builders may still use the standard as a benchmark.

However, BfL will no longer be used as a reason for refusing planning permission. It is understood the replacement will have less of a regulatory tone, with no statutory minimum score, and be reinvented ‘as a training tool’.

Design for Homes chief executive David Birkbeck said: ‘The plan is to move it away from what it had become, which was like a quantity surveyor’s bill of quantities.

‘It’s going to become a design conversation, where BfL becomes the basis for a negotiation between developers, planning authorities and the community.’

In a statement, DC CABE said it consulted stakeholders ‘to assess the best way forward’ as a result of the ‘changing policy landscape around Localism’ and the need to engage communities in influencing the built environment.

A source close to DC CABE said in ‘the short term’ BfL was ‘one of the casualties of the cuts’ but added: ‘It hasn’t “died” as such and there is general enthusiasm in Design Council CABE and in the industry to get it going again as soon as possible.’

Grid Architects associate David Lomax said Building For Life standards ‘make sense’ and ‘should be the bedrock of good practice in housing design’, adding that ‘Building for Life 2’ should ‘take into account the ever-increasing complexity and scale of housing being built today’.

More comment:

Faheem Aftab of Leach Rhodes Walker: ‘The building for life criteria has proven to be a valuable tool for assuring that residential schemes meet the future needs for home occupiers. It provides an example of how CABE  managed to shape the agenda for the design requirements for successful architecture. Clearly the adoption of the criteria by the HCA, shows the importants placed upon this well thought out set of design tools. Despite the failings of the assessment process and the BfL awards - the criteria and the core 12 points - have been adopted into the everyday; providing the benchmark for design for homes. 
Clearly the adoption of the principles into all current housing design guides is a clear testament of the success of BfL. The legacy of BfL is already established in its incorporation into design guides, and is someting that should be acknowledged as a real benefit coming from CABE’s work. As for the assessment process  - the need for it to exist has been superseded by the success of the adoption of the criteria as the basic need for home design.’ 





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