Building for Life

Residential design quality in Sheffield is about creating places that suit the needs of everyone in the city, whilst also creating places that are attractive, accessible and enable residents to reduce their impact on the environment.

To achieve residential design quality, Sheffield has used the Building for Life model, the industry standard endorsed by Government for well-designed homes and neighbourhoods.

The expectation to meet high design quality in all new developments is supported by the Sheffield Development Framework Core Strategy (Policy CS74) that sets out the design principles that high-quality development, including residential development, should address.

CS74 also sets out the expectation that Building for Life will be used to assess the design quality of all new major residential development in the city.

Therefore, applicants are expected to use Building for Life within their Design and Access Statements for residential development to help structure text relating to the design aspects of a proposal, demonstrating how the objectives required by policy have been achieved.


Building for Life 12 (BfL 12) is run by a partnership of Cabe at the Design Council, the Home Builders' Federation and Design for Homes, who launched an updated version called Building for Life 12, in September 2012. 

This reflects the partners’ vision for what new housing developments should be: attractive, functional and sustainable places to live. The updated version is based upon the new National Planning Policy Framework and the Government’s commitment to build more homes, better homes and involve local communities in planning.

How it is being used

In Sheffield, Building for Life has been used up until now in the development management process to help deliver high quality development that takes advantage of and enhances the distinctive features of the city, expected of new developments to comply with the Sheffield Development Framework Core Strategy Policy CS 74.

Major residential developments (ie those of 10 dwellings or more) have been assessed against Building for Life and these assessments used to inform the determination of planning applications and provide a framework for pre-application discussions.

As the new version, Building for Life 12, uses a revised methodology, set of questions, and scoring system; its use will be piloted over the coming weeks and months to determine how it might be used in the future. This will be undertaken by testing the new Building for Life 12 model against a small number of applications. Whilst this pilot is being undertaken, the use of the previous Building for Life model to assess major residential developments will cease.

Once the results of the pilot are known, a further announcement will be made on how it is intended to use the Building for Life 12 model in the future.


To ensure that new residential developments in Sheffield are meeting the expected standard under the Sheffield Development Framework, annual assessments of completed developments have been carried out in previous years and published as part of the Sheffield Development Framework Annual Monitoring Report.

Given the introduction of Building for Life 12 and the changes to the scoring system, we no longer intends to publish annual monitoring data on performance of new housing developments against the Building for Life criteria.

The South Yorkshire Residential Design Guide

The South Yorkshire Residential Design Guide has been developed by the 4 South Yorkshire authorities with Transform South Yorkshire and consultants REAL. It has been designated as a 'best practice guide' in Sheffield, for use in the development and evaluation of residential development proposals using the Building for Life model.

It was designed to be used by planning applicants and their teams as well as by Development Management officers and consultees. Although based upon the previous set of Building for Life questions, the guide can still be used in a number of ways, and referenced during the preparation of an initial vision for a scheme, at the concept or pre-application stage, and following the submission of a full application for planning permission.

3 Design Stage Checklists are provided in the document offering guidance on the information that would normally be prepared, and illustrating the sort of questions that might be asked by the Planning Development Team looking at the application.

These questions are supported by the Building for Life Sheets. These sheets explain what the checklist questions mean and link the reader to the subsequent guidance in the document. This guidance explains the best practice that would enable a design team to answer the questions successfully.

The guidance is organised through 4 different scales relating to: the neighbourhood, the street, the block and plot, and the building. This section starts off by emphasising the importance of carrying out thorough appraisal of the site and its surrounding context and gives a description of what might normally be considered.

The next section is the Technical Requirements. This section sets out detailed specification in relation to amenity and housing standards, highway geometry, drainage, structures, street lighting, utilities, street trees, materials, adoption criteria, waste, and management.

Finally the document has a number of Appendices. These include a more detailed explanation of the core principles behind the guide, supporting planning policies, a glossary of terms, a list of relevant publications for further reading, and some key contacts. There is also an index at the rear of the guide for ease of reference.

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