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Urban Design Compendium

Case Study 013 - Setting the standard

013 - Building for Life

Made up of 20 criteria the Building for Life standard provides a framework for assessing the quality of new housing and neighbourhoods and ensuring they are sustainable, attractive and fit for purpose.

This national standard is led by CABE and the Home Builders Federation in association with English Partnerships, the Housing Corporation, Design for Homes and the Civic Trust. The standard was originally launched as an award to promote design excellence and best practice in the house building industry. The award is given to new housing projects that demonstrate commitment to high-design standards, good place making and sustainable development. Schemes are assessed against four key categories:

  • character
  • roads, parking and pedestrianisation
  • design and construction
  • environment and community

Each category has five questions. Projects scoring over 14 points receive silver standard and those scoring over 16 receive the gold standard.

The clear guidance and breadth of issues covered has led to the criteria being used as a benchmark of design quality on three levels;

  • as an award
  • as an assessment tool (as used in CABE’s Housing Audits)
  • as a predictive tool to assess the quality of development proposals.

English Partnerships introduced Building for Life as a quality standard in September 2005. All design proposals must demonstrate that their designs will meet the silver standard. CABE recommend that this approach be adopted by every local authority as a mechanism to raise the quality of proposals that are brought to planning committees and to enforce these standards once planning permission has been secured.

Other Information

  • Location: National
  • Project Team: CABE, House Builders Federation, Civic Trust, Design for Homes, English Partnerships, Housing Corporation
  • Contact:


UDC2 Section - Sowing the Seedg the Seed  

Building for Life winners (clockwise from top left) Empire Square, Chapel, Butts Green and Charter Quays demonstrate how schemes that address all four key assessment categories can deliver successful places which are sustainable, attractive and fit for purpose.

Images (image bank)