Lifetime Homes

Sustainable Design > Lifetime Homes

Designed for change. How new building standards will lead to more adaptable and flexible homes.

Moving home is stressful. That’s especially true if you’re forced to move from a much-loved home, perhaps because of ill-health, ageing or the needs of a growing family. How much better it would be if homes were easier to modify and adapt as our circumstances change.

Lifetime Homes are designed to cope with the changing needs of their owners and tenants. A Lifetime Home has to comply with a set of 16 standards, including better access, higher wall sockets and a downstairs toilet. Click here to see the full list of standards cover and to read more about each of them.

The standards aren’t aimed at creating homes that are specifically suitable for the elderly, the disabled or young families – these groups have very different needs. Rather, they’re about flexibility. Wider doorways aren’t just helpful if you’re a wheelchair user, they make life easier if you need to manoeuvre a pushchair too. Or even if you’re temporarily having trouble getting around because you’ve broken your leg.

There are other benefits too. The unobtrusive design features of Lifetime Homes should give them an advantage in the housing market because the houses will appeal to a wider range of people. In addition, the elderly will be able to stay longer in communities where they will often have existing support networks built up over years. This encourages community cohesiveness, one of the ‘softer’ factors typically used when measuring sustainability.

From 2013, all new homes in the UK must be Lifetime Homes. All public housing must comply with the standards by 2010.

Some have questioned why these guidelines are needed when Building Regulations Part M already covers some of the main points. The main answer is that, while existing regulations deal with accessibility, they don’t address usability.

There are also worries over red tape. The good news here is that, if plans meet Lifetime Homes standards, they will pass Building Regulations Part M and, for those working on behalf of councils or housing associations, Housing Corporation Scheme Development Standards.

Lifetime Homes will be more expensive to build. However, the premium needn’t be great. The Chartered Institute of Housing in Northern Ireland and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (which developed the standards in conjunction with the Habinteg Housing Association) have estimated that it will cost as little as between £165 and £545 per dwelling to meet the standards, depending on the type, size and footprint of home.

There’s also a potential saving for society as a whole. At a time when governments across the developed world are warning of hard choices over funding care for the elderly, Lifetime Homes may be part of the solution. It’s estimated they could save taxpayers as much as £5.5 billion over 60 years because of reduced expenditure on home adaptations and a reduction in the numbers going into residential care.