'Once the Planning System Has Determined Where New Houses Are Going to Be Built, What Type of Places Are We Going to Create?'

On Thursday, 3 April 2014, Nottingham Trent University hosted the launch of the Built for Life website and the presentation of the latest round of Built for Life schemes.

'The sign of a good place to live', Building for Life 12, (recently - 2016 - updated) which outlines twelve questions that are designed to help structure discussions between local communities, local planning authorities, developers and other stakeholders can be downloaded here:


and you can visit the Built for Life website by following this link:


In his article below, (reproduced from a Nottingham Trent University News and Events article: Expert opinion: How can Built for Life support the growth agenda?, Wednesday, 27 February 2013) Stefan Kruczkowski talks about the Building for Life Partnership and the Building for Life 12 (BfL12) tool and, crucially for communities, its promise that, through it and its adoption by planners, developers, architects and builders, local people might be put at the centre of discussions on what the future of their neighbourhood should look like. 

How Can Built for Life Support the Growth Agenda?

'Built for Life represents a radical new approach to encouraging the house building industry to strive to build better designed environments'

House building is seen as a key driver of economic growth and recovery. While this requires complementary efforts to stimulate development through land release, mortgage availability and affordability, it also requires a focus on quality. Housing is a highly sensitive topic. However, once the planning system has determined where new houses are going to be built, what type of places are we going to create?

The Government's commitment to 'Get Britain Building' is complemented by a desire to see well designed places created, expressed with the National Planning Policy Framework, and more recently the planning minister's (Nick Boles MP) attack on 'ugly' housing as one of the possible causes of local resistance to housing development.

Launched by the Building for Life partnership, Building for Life 12 (BfL12) has been written to support this quality growth agenda. It is an urban design quality indicator designed to raise the quality of volume built housing developments. Arguably, if its principles are followed and applied well, communities will be safeguarded from the so-called 'ugly' developments.

However BfL12 has another key role, responding directly to the Government's calls for developers and local planning authorities to better engage local communities in shaping development, once the principle of development has been determined through the plan making process.

BfL12 has therefore been designed firstly as a discussion tool to stimulate conversations about what type of places can and should be created. The intention being that local communities are actively involved in influencing development proposals.

Launched this month by Nick Boles MP, 'Built for Life' represents a radical new approach to encouraging the house building industry to strive to build better designed environments – and crucially begin to raise consumer awareness about good urban design in housing.

Built for Life will see developments securing 12 'green' indicators – subject to independent verification by a local architecture centre - in order to achieve Built for Life status. This status will allow developers to promote the design quality of their development at the point of sale offering the industry the opportunity to compete not only on price, interior design, specification and sales incentives, but also on urban design quality.

However, the most exciting prospect is the intention of the Building for Life Partnership to publish an independent league table of those securing Built for Life status on an annual basis from 2015.

The Built for Life league table could become the 'premier league' for house builders and could perhaps be used as a basis for assessing the merits of one developer over another in future government land release and publicly funded grant programmes.

Time will tell how the industry will respond, however if supported by high profile publicity the desirability of securing the top position on the league table could prove a strong motivation to build not only more homes, but better homes.

[Stefan Kruczkowski, Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture, Design & the Built Environment, Nottingham Trent University]