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Last edited 17 Dec 2021
Building for a Healthy Life BHL
On 23 July 2020, Design for Homes announced the release of Building for a Healthy Life (BHL). Specifications in the programme will include the Healthy Housing toolkit, which covers guidance in land sale tenders.
 Replacement for Building for Life 12
Building for a Healthy Life will replace Building for Life 12 (B4L12). Building for Life (B4L12) is an industry standard for well-designed homes and neighbourhoods which is endorsed by the Government.
As a replacement for B4L12, the new initiative puts a greater focus on healthier communities. Both programmes intend to give consumers confidence that important aspects of design have been considered during the development of new housing and neighbourhood planning.
 Promoting healthier lifestyles
Building for a Healthy Life (BHL) is published by Design for Homes and Urban Design Doctor. It encourages healthier lifestyles at the earliest stages of housing development design through the use of proactive masterplanning. These plans should be based on an assessment of local health and care needs with the creation of integrated neighbourhoods that include ‘tenure neutral housing’ and clearly delineated public spaces.
The design toolkit includes ideas that can help planners create communities with an emphasis on walking and cycling paths in addition to better public transport links. The end results seek to improve physical fitness for residents and provide better air quality (due to lower carbon emissions from vehicles).
 Backed by the NHS
NHS England and NHS Improvement initiated the development of Building for a Healthy Life specifically as an update to B4L12 (which is part of the required tender process for developers purchasing land for projects proposed by Homes England).
The agency plans to replace B4L12 with Building for a Healthy Life but will first compare the impact the changes might have on design quality that had previously been achieved under B4L12.
 Maintaining the 12 point structure
Building for a Healthy Life will follow the same 12 point format as B4L12, using the traffic light system. The more green lights a development attains, the better it should be. Amber suggests areas of a development that could be improved and red warns that an aspect of the development needs to be reconsidered.
The assessment is intended to stimulate further dialogue between communities, the project team, the local authority and other stakeholders. However, in the new system the guidance should prompt discussion - not result in a box ticking exercise.
It is not unusual for local authorities to refer to B4L12 in their plans, and it is anticipated that this policy will continue with Building for a Healthy Life.
 Comments from thought leaders
Sadie Morgan, Director of architecture firm, dRMM, and a board member of Homes England, said: “The new design guidance is a big step forward in supporting placemaking for healthier, more integrated communities where people want to live and spend time together. People’s homes and neighbourhoods have a huge impact on their wellbeing and Homes England is committing to using these new guidelines to ensure that new developments encourage and enable better health.”
David Birkbeck of Design for Homes said: “Building for a Healthy Life works best as the starting point for getting developers, local authorities, communities and other stakeholders to agree on key aspects of a design, such as how new development will connect to existing communities and how people will be able move between the two.”
 Case study
Inholm is a sustainable mixed-tenure neighbourhood of 406 homes by Urban Splash that sets pioneering townscape design principles for the wider new town of Northstowe near Cambridge.The new neighbourhood, which won a Housing Design Award in 2020, was masterplanned by Proctor and Matthews and is one of the first schemes from Homes England to integrate the principles of Building for Life 12 into the tender. Initiated by Homes England, Northstowe is one of England’s most ambitious new town projects since Milton Keynes and may eventually grow to a community of 10,000 homes.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings
- Architectural Technology research at Robert Gordon University.
- Building for life.
- Changing lifestyles.
- Cycling and walking plan.
- Design for Homes.
- Homes England.
- National Planning Policy Framework.
- Neighbourhood planning.
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