Lifetime Homes – A Design for Life

The concept of Lifetime Homes was developed in the early 1990s to address the concerns of inaccessible homes and inconvenient interiors in order to ensure we create a design for life in every home. For a large section of the population, home design didn’t consider that the occupants would grow old in their homes and would therefore need adaptations, sometimes at enormous costs. So, a group of housing experts, associations and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation developed a set of design standards to encourage better living environments for everyone.

Lifetime Homes has since been incorporated into the Building Regulations as optional requirement M4(2) entitled ‘accessible and adaptable dwellings’ to help ensure that homes are accessible and inclusive and have been instrumental in local planning. In 2016 the London Plan was amended to reflect these new standards and current London Plan policy and according to the Mayor of London “90% of all new build housing in London to meet this standard, with the remaining 10% being wheelchair user dwellings”.

How Lifetime Homes plays a part in balcony design

There are 16 design criteria which can be universally applied to new homes to make them compliant with the Lifetime Homes standards.  Each design feature adds to the comfort and convenience of the home and supports changing needs of individuals and families at different stages of life. All 16 criteria rarely require greater space or impact the density of a development and come at a minimal cost in the overall design and build of a home.

Balcony design pays particular attention to Criterion 15, which incorporates glazing and window handle heights. Windows should be designed so that the handles can be within reach at all stages of life, including from a wheelchair. A window in a living room is required at a height that enables a seated person to have a view.

Criterion 8 also plays a part in balcony design, as it says that living spaces need to be on the same level as the entrance. This allows accessible space within the house for the householders and any visitors. A balcony, therefore, should also be on the same level as the room that looks out onto it. Keeping the threshold level with both the indoor and outdoor space makes it accessible for wheelchairs, baby buggies and anyone who is at risk of tripping.

A design for life

When incorporating these criteria into balcony design, it is important to consider whether the structure, dimensions and level of the balcony will give a clear view of the outside for anyone standing or sitting and easy access to the outside.

Meeting all the standards set out by the London Plan also ensures Part M of The Building Regulations 2010 compliance, enabling people to stay in and enjoy their homes for a lifetime.

In 2015/16 updates were made to categorise guidance into 1) visitable dwellings, 2) accessible and adaptable dwellings and 3) wheelchair user dwellings. Further minor changes have been made in 2020 and more recently in June 2021.