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front cover lifetime home design guide

For Professionals

Refurbishment work


As with new build projects, to achieve the Lifetime Homes standard by refurbishment of a dwelling, all 16 Design Criteria must be achieved at the completion of the refurbishment works to the dwelling and its external environment. However, an additional number of existing factors in refurbishment may affect potential for achieving the Lifetime Homes standard (see below).

The overall aim should therefore be to make improvements as far as practicable, to get as close to the Lifetime Homes standard as possible, having regard for the principles behind each of the 16 Design Criteria. This aim should be stated as a key project objective from the outset and the consideration on potential should begin from the earliest planning stages. Starting consideration at later stages may make improvements or inclusion less achievable or impossible.

Larger scale works, with significant budgets, are more likely to achieve better overall results, or achieve the Standard, due to the greater potential to strip back the fabric, make alterations, or even extend existing structure. However, even in major refurbishment projects, achieving the requirements of all 16 Criteria may be unrealistic and impractical due to the number of considerations and constraints imposed by the existing building(s) and its(their) surrounds. Constraints may include:

  • Fixed floor heights against external levels
  • The existing structure of the building
  • The footprint of the existing building and its structural components
  • The availability of external space
  • Planning and conservation considerations
  • Existing service runs and connections
  • Scope of proposed works and available budget


Each element of the works should therefore be considered in accordance with the relevant Lifetime Home Criteria with a view to completing accessibility improvements as far as practicable given the limitations and constraints imposed by the existing situation. An access statements for each project should detail the overall objectives, restrictions and limitations imposed by the existing situation, considerations made, and detail the decision making process leading to the practical solutions achieved, explaining why further improvements to achieve the required / desired Standard for each element were not possible.

Whilst major refurbishment involving stripping back to the structural shell, or with potential for structural alterations and/or extension are likely to achieve better overall accessibility / adaptability improvements throughout the property, many refurbishment programmes will concern themselves with particular elements of a building (e.g. a window replacement programme). In replacement programmes (and the like) the specification for the works should aim to achieve all relevant Lifetime Home design criteria relevant to those particular works. Click on this link for more detail (including illustrations) regarding the design and specification required to achieve, each of the 16 Design Criteria (and additional good practice recommendations).

A number of basic considerations for refurbishment works relating to Lifetime Home requirements (and some additional good practice recommendations), that can be considered from the earliest planning stages, depending on the particular refurbishment project, are listed below. This list is neither detailed nor exhaustive, and does not cover the full requirements of the 16 Design Criteria. Designers and specifiers should therefore familiarise themselves with requirements of the Criteria prior to considering potential improvements.



Is there car parking close to the dwelling? Is there any possibility for improving the relationship between vehicle hard-standings and the entrance to dwellings / block of dwellings – making the relationship as convenient as possible for movement between the two – also bearing in mind gradient requirements discussed below?

Can parking be provided within dwelling curtilages?

Where parking is, or can be, provided within the curtilage of a particular dwelling - does it, or can it, have the potential to be widened to 3300mm – to satisfy Criterion 1?


Approach to dwelling(s) from parking or site boundary

Is the approach to the dwelling(s) from the car parking or site boundary step free? If so, does it satisfy the gradient requirements as detailed in Criterion 2?

If not, can the steps be eliminated and slopes modified to achieve the gradient requirements of Criterion 2?

If not, as the next best scenario, can a secondary step free route from the parking / site boundary to the dwelling entrance(s) be provided that does meet the gradient requirements of Criterion 2?

Forming a new entrance in a different location to achieve the gradient requirement, or having a route to a secondary entrance that met the gradient requirement, (whilst not achieving the overall requirements of the Standard) would improve the access to the dwelling in line with the overall principle. (NB: To achieve the Lifetime Homes Standard these gradient requirements are required on the principle route to all entrances).

If gradients are an issue, can parking be relocated closer to the dwelling and the vehicular approach to the parking used to ‘take out’ some of the gradient so that the resultant pedestrian route from the new parking position to the entrance can meet the gradient requirements?

Is the width of the access route(s), or could it be, a minimum of 900mm for its entire length? (See good practice recommendations under Criterion 2 for recommended widths on communal paths and paths involving a turn).

Does, or is there potential for, the path to run adjacent to parking so that the overall width of the hard standing can be 3300mm as required by Criterion 1?

If paths are being re-laid, are the surface treatments chosen suitable for wheelchair users (i.e. hard, relatively smooth and even), and will they contrast with adjacent surfaces? (NB: These are good practice recommendations). If paths are being re-laid are their routes to the entrance (bearing in mind the other requirements) as straight and direct as possible? Are crossfalls reduced to the minimum essential to provide effective drainage.

Are communal paths adequately lit? (NB: This is a good practice recommendation). Are the widths of gates along access routes consistent with the clear opening of the entrance doors (minimum 800mm) and are they prevented from swinging open onto any other access path? (NB: These are good practice recommendations).



If entrances to dwellings or blocks of dwellings do not have external lights, any work in this area should ensure external lighting is provided. See good practice recommendations under Criterion 4 for illumination levels and anti glare measures.

Are accessible thresholds In accordance with Part M already provided? If not, all entrance doors / door-sets should be replaced to ensure accessibility over all thresholds. See Criterion 4 for further details.

Do entrance doors have a minimum clear opening width of 800mm and an internal nib of 300mm on the leading edge / pull side? If not, can doors / door-sets be replaced to achieve this (together with the accessible threshold)? Where doors have side casements this adjustment may be possible without altering the structural opening. Elsewhere, is it possible to widen the structural opening to achieve the Standard?

Is the main entrance provided with a canopy or other similar weather protection? If not, can it be provided?

Are door locks and other ironmongery sited within the height band of 450mm – 1200mm from the floor and are they suitable for use by people with limited hand dexterity.

If new doors and/or ironmongery are being provided, or redecoration of doors is taking place ensure that the door colour provides good tonal contrast for the ironmongery finish. (NB: This is a good practice recommendation).


Circulation within communal hallways

Where new communal stairs are being provided, the aim should be for them to easy going in accordance with the requirements of Criterion 5a.

Although provisions of a lift in flatted schemes is not a Lifetime Home requirement, where communal areas are being completely remodelled or formed, feasibility for lift provision should be considered due to the obvious accessibility advantages – see Criterion 5b.


Circulation within dwellings

If doorways and hallways do not meet the width ratio requirements of Criterion 6, consider potential for widening doorways to meet the requirements.

If narrow corridors exist, is there potential to create a more open plan arrangement to bring circulation into rooms / areas with a natural direct flow between the rooms / areas?

Can doors be hung differently to improve access into rooms or improve manoeuvring space / provide nibs around the doors? Two way opening of doors or rising butts may also help manoeuvring potential in some restricted areas.

In major refurbishment it may be possible to re-configure stair form and/or position in order to improve access to rooms / layout, and/or enable stair lift provision – see Criterion 12a.

Consider structure between the ground and first storeys, and its support method. Is there potential to create a knock out panel for a future through floor lift route? Does this accord with a suitable route? See Criterion 12b. Where joists are being stripped out, there may be additional opportunity to adjust structural support and plan for this improvement.

New doors can be provide with ironmongery that is suitable for limited hand dexterity (e.g. lever handles – with slight returns to reduce the risk of clothing snagging) and a colour that gives tonal contrast between the door and ironmongery. (Good practice recommendation as opposed to Lifetime Home requirement).


WCs & Bathrooms

Where an entrance level WC already exists, consideration should be given to any potential adjustments in order to achieve the accessible entrance level WC and drainage for a future shower requirements of Criterion 10.

Pumps and macerators now increase potential for provision of entrance level WCs where they did not previously exist.

Reconfiguring space, e.g. under stair areas, may help to achieve this requirement.

Where remodelling of room layouts or construction of extensions are included in the refurbishment works, provision of this Lifetime Home requirement should be given high priority.

Remodelling bathrooms, amending layouts, and careful selection of fittings may help to provide or move closer to the access spaces required by Criterion 14.

Removal of baths and provision of accessible showers can help free up overall floor space to achieve access spaces.

Creation of step free ‘wet rooms’ in lieu of traditional bathrooms and / or cloakrooms can be effective at creating floor space combining a number of functions (e.g. showering space combined with transfer spaces to the WC) which can help contain the overall footprint requirement within a set area.

Whenever remodelling bathrooms and cloakrooms, consider whether it is necessary to clad walls with suitable material or provide other measures to enable to future firm fixing of grab rails in the rooms when required – see Criterion 11. Similar strengthening works may be required to ceilings between the bathroom and a bedroom to support a future tracking hoist – see Criterion 13.



Window replacement works should provide windows with accessible ironmongery, no higher than 1200mm from the floor to at least one opening light in each room. See Criterion 15.

When possible, if living room windows have glazing heights above 800mm from the floor, alterations to a main window in the living room should be made to lower the glazing line to a maximum 800mm from the floor to enable a seated person to have a view out of the window. See Criterion 15.



Renewal or provision of any services during refurbishment works should enable all controls to be sited within the 450mm – 1200mm height band required by Criterion 16.

Electrical and rewiring programmes should ensure that electrical controls, switches, sockets heights, consumer units and the like are sited within the 450mm – 1200mm height band.

Replacement or installation of radiators should enable temperature control valves on the radiators to be sited within the 450mm – 1200mm height band – usually requiring specification of radiators able to have these valves at the top.

Repositioning and/or resizing of existing radiators may help create essential manoeuvring widths in corridors and around doorways.

Boiler replacement should ensure that any key customer controls on the new boiler can be within this height band.

Good practice would also recommend that all controls, switches and the like, are considered for ease of use by people with limited hand dexterity, and their visual contrast against their background also considered to assist people with sight loss.