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Member note - Launch of Building for Life 12

Date: 20/09/12

Launch of Building for Life 12


Following detailed work and consultation involving HBF members and others over several months, a revised version of Building for Life – Building for Life 12 (BfL12) – has been launched today at an event held at Stephenson College in Coalville, Leicestershire.

Please click here to view a copy of the press release issued in conjunction with the launch of BfL12.

The main Building for Life partners have also produced a Guide to BfL12, please click here to download a copy

Background and objectives for BfL12

In view of the Government’s significant changes to the planning system, including the introduction of the NPPF, the requirement to update Building for Life and the merging of a smaller CABE into the Design Council, there has been both a need and an opportunity to review the content and the role of BfL.

In discussion, the three chief BfL partners – HBF, Cabe at the Design Council and Design for Homes – agreed that for the future BfL should primarily be positioned as a reference tool that can be used to inform discussions relating to development design quality under the new planning system, including in community engagement and consultation. It was also agreed that some elements of the existing BfL 20 questions were no longer relevant (for example, that on exceeding current building regulations), some were over-prescriptive and some were hard to interpret clearly and consistently.

Detailed work in which Design for Homes played a significant part was therefore undertaken to see how the existing set of 20 questions could be restructured and revised to provide a clearer, succinct and helpful set of reference points or prompts for discussing urban design quality. The opportunity was also taken to express the revised set of BfL questions in language that was more accessible to all parties, including to local communities. A number of HBF members contributed to this work and we are most grateful for their input.

This focus and a parallel effort to strip out elements of the existing 20 questions that were overtaken, or duplicated each other, has enabled the partners to agree on a new and coherent set of 12 questions covering the same broad ground as before – which we are launching as BfL12.

The revised set of 12 questions is deliberately not positioned as a “standard”, but as a tool to promote local discussions about design on the basis of a shared and transparent vocabulary.

We are also seeking to move BfL away from being used as a tick box or mechanistic means of “scoring” developments as having achieved so many marks out of 20. The partners all agree that such “scoring” is unhelpful – in part because some subjectivity is always involved in making judgements – and can have perverse results.

The partners recognise, however, that parties using BfL12 will want to be able to show that good outcomes have been achieved in relation to its main provisions. We are therefore suggesting that in future design quality discussions based around BfL12 should use a traffic light approach (green, amber, red) to indicate whether a particular aspect of urban design has been achieved or not, or could be improved.

Details of how the traffic light approach will work are provided within the BfL Guide downloadable via the link above. In brief, the ‘red’ elements will identify aspects of proposals which need to be changed; an ‘amber’ will mean either that the characteristics of the scheme make full achievement of one of the BfL12 principles impossible or may mean the need for further consideration to improve the outcomes; ‘green’ implies full achievement of the principle.

In addition, we are announcing that we wish projects that are agreed to achieve 12 “greens” under BfL12 to be eligible to be recognised and celebrated in an appropriate way. Developments agreed to have achieved 12 “greens” will therefore be known as BfL12 Diamond developments.

HBF and its partners hope that BfL12 will be a useful resource for house builders, local authorities, communities and others in considering urban design issues for new housing development. We will keep the position under review and would welcome member feedback on the revised set of questions and how they are working day to day in the field.

John Slaughter

HBF Director of External Affairs

Please click here to download a copy of this briefing as a PDF.