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front cover lifetime home design guide

Lifetime Homes

Lifetime Homes Principles

The Lifetime Homes Standard was established in the mid-1990s to incorporate a set of principles that should be implicit in good housing design. Good design, in this context, is considered to be design that maximizes utility, independence and quality of life, while not compromising other design issues such as aesthetics or cost effectiveness.

The Lifetime Homes Standard seeks to enable ‘general needs’ housing to provide, either from the outset or through simple and cost-effective adaptation, design solutions that meet the existing and changing needs of diverse households. This offers the occupants more choice over where they live and which visitors they can accommodate for any given time scale. It is therefore an expression of Inclusive Design.

Housing that is designed to the Lifetime Homes Standard will be convenient for most occupants, including some (but not all) wheelchair users and disabled visitors, without the necessity for substantial alterations.

A Lifetime Home will meet the requirements of a wide range of households, including families with push chairs as well as some wheelchair users. The additional functionality and accessibility it provides is also helpful to everyone in ordinary daily life, for example when carrying large and bulky items. Lifetime Homes are not, however, a substitute for purpose-designed wheelchair standard housing. Many wheelchair users will require purpose-designed wheelchair housing. Planners and providers should therefore ensure that good provision is made to meet this need.


The Lifetime Homes Principles

The Lifetime Homes concept is based on five overarching principles. These inform and establish the functional basis for the statements of principle that have been introduced for each of the sixteen Lifetime Homes criteria.


Principle One: Inclusivity

An inclusive environment aims to assist use by everyone, regardless of age, gender or disability. It does not attempt to meet every need, but by considering people’s diversity it aims to break down unnecessary barriers and exclusion. The design of a Lifetime Home removes the barriers to accessibility often present in other dwellings. The flexibility and adaptability within the design and structure enables a Lifetime Home to meet a diverse range of needs over time. A development of Lifetime Homes therefore has the potential to provide for the widest cross-section of individuals within the general population. The high level of accessibility offers greater ‘visitability’, so that an individual is not prevented from visiting a household due to the design of the home.


Principle Two: Accessibility

Inclusive design aims to give the widest range of people, including those with physical and/or sensory impairments, older people and children, convenient and independent access into and around the built environment (externally and internally) and also equal access to services. A Lifetime Home will be designed with particular attention to circulation within the home and external routes to transport infrastructure. Pathways, hallways, stairways and access to floors above, doorways and spaces to approach and reach essential facilities and controls in the home will be taken into consideration.


 Principle Three: Adaptability

Adaptability means that a building or product can be simply adapted to meet people’s changing needs over time or to suit the needs of different users. Any subsequent adaptations should be more cost-effective because the original design accommodates their future provision from the outset. In a Lifetime Home, non-apparent integral design features are ready to assist adaptation for a household that has a family member with a temporary or permanent disability or a progressive condition that is making movement around the home or between floors difficult. A member of the household, or a visitor, will be able to live, sleep and bath solely on the entrance level for a short period, or can benefit from step-free access to upper floor facilities.


Principle Four: Sustainability

Sustainability, in this context, refers to sustainable communities underpinned by essential accessible elements aimed at meeting current and future needs, including homes, facilities, goods and services – the design of which will contribute to the long term viability of the community. The accessibility, flexibility and adaptability of a Lifetime Home all help to ensure long term demand for, and desirability of the dwelling. While sustainability is dependent on a range of factors, dwellings that offer this degree of accessibility and flexibility are likely to remain popular over time, for both existing and new households, and can therefore contribute to the creation of stable and popular neighbourhoods and communities.


Principle Five: Good Value

Lifetime Homes are not intended to be complicated or expensive for house-builders or for the people who live in them. The design criteria have been carefully considered so that they can be incorporated into a dwelling’s design and construction from the outset with only a marginal cost effect. Research undertaken by Davis Langdon and Elemental Energy on behalf of the Department for Communities and Local Government confirms this. 

Once occupied, the adaptability of the dwelling should actually save a household money if needs change and the dwelling is quickly and simply adapted to suit the new set of circumstances. Without Lifetime Homes features, the household may be faced with expensive, complicated and disruptive major adaptation works to a dwelling less suited to change; or possibly (in the case of an existing household) face a forced move to a more suitable home. This inherent flexibility also represents better value for the wider economy, as a greater supply of such homes can accommodate the changing needs of the growing population of older people and reduce future need for specialised housing.