27 Nov 2007

Lifetime Homes: the 16 steps

Lifetime Homes, as a concept, has been around since 1991. The idea is to make housing usable by people of all abilities and in all phases of life, including childhood. It’s not just about the disabled!

It was developed by a group of housing experts, drawn together by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. A few of the ideas were incorporated into Part M of the England & Wales Building Regulations in 1999, but the Lifetime Homes concept as a whole is still only widely used by Housing Associations. The Code for Sustainable Homes awards eco points for building to Lifetime Homes standard and, as it stands, the standard will have to be incorporated into all new homes by 2016. You won’t be able to score the 90% rating required to meet Level 6 of the Code without it.

There are 16 design features which combined make up the Lifetime Homes standard:

• Car parking space should be easily capable of enlargement to attain a width of 3300mm

• The distance from the car parking space to the home should be kept to a minimum and should be level or gently sloping

• The approach to all entrances should be level or gently sloping

• All entrances should be illuminated

• Communal stairs should provide easy access and where levels are reached by lift, the lift should be fully wheelchair accessible

• Doorways and hallways have to be at least 750mm wide, or at least 900mm wide when the approach is head-on

• Dining and living areas should have space for turning a wheelchair and there should be adequate circulation space for wheelchair users

• The living space should be at the level of the entrance

• If homes of two or more storeys, there should be space at entrance level which should be used as a convenient bed space

• The design of the property should incorporate a provision for a future stair lift and a suitably identified space for a through-the-floor lift from the ground to the first floor

• The design of the property should provide for a reasonable route for a potential hoist from a main bedroom to the bathroom

• There should be a WC situated at the entrance level of the property and a drainage provision enabling a shower to be fitted in the future

• Walls in the bathrooms and toilets should be capable of taking adaptations such as handrails

• The bathroom should be designed to incorporate ease of access to essential amenities such as the bath, basin and WC

• Living room windows should begin 800mm from the floor or lower and be easy to open

• Switches, sockets, ventilation and service controls should be situated between 450mm and 1200mm from the floor

Most of these features can be incorporated into most house designs fairly easily and with minimal additional cost. The ones that are likely to cause problems for designers are:

• The requirement for larger bathrooms, especially the future proofing of the downstairs loo as a potential wet room. In small houses, this is a considerable space eater

• Future-proofing a lift shaft: again this is tricky in small houses

• Wide parking spaces

Ideally, from a Lifetime Homes point of view, we would all be living in generous bungalows. However, this runs completely counter to the prevailing mood in planning which demands that we squeeze as much as possible living space into the available footprint. Indeed, another part of the Code for Sustainable Homes awards points for using the basement and/or the loftspace. It’s not difficult to build a four-storey house that conforms to Lifetime Homes standard, but arguably it goes against the spirit of what Lifetime Homes is all about, which is making the whole house accessible to the physically impaired. Box ticking 1 Common sense 0.


  1. Very useful tips - not only for designers but also for home owners.

  2. This is absolutely ridiculous.

    If they really wanted old and disabled people to have better homes, they would just repeal the Planning Act and building regulations and let people build the homes they want.

    This kind of thing is socialistic rubbish.

  3. Rule 10a is the only real challenge - side transfer requirements for downstairs WCs. It has a major effect on ground floor layouts - no longer can you just sneak in the toilet under stairs.

    Personally, I'm behind the principles of built in cultural/social longevity, but if you want to play devil's advocate then the question becomes whether the housing stock should be so static. Do we really want people to be able to stay in their homes their whole life or should they be moving on to something more suitable when they're 90 instead of staying in my 4 bed family house?