Steve Williams, Associate Urban Designer at our Liverpool office, discusses the importance of delivering housing development that promotes and enables healthy living and how people’s new working habits might influence that.

Steve WilliamsDuring a period when the phrase ‘uncertain times’ is becoming increasing common, one thing is certain; for the vast majority of people, their lives have dramatically changed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The ability to work has been tested, and for some industries there has been no way around the implications of lockdown life. For others, the ability to adapt to keep moving has been a bright light in an otherwise gloomy year.

It is impossible to know what the “new normal” will entail but the increased work flexibility that has been indirectly awarded to people has provided valuable insight into the way we can live/work in the future and the environments needed to do so effectively.

Beyond the consequence of people realising that they didn’t perhaps have a suitable space to set up their computer, their access to open space was also tested. The prescribed ‘1 walk-a-day’ saw neighbourhood streets buzzing with activity which would otherwise be quiet due to the masses congregating in the centre of towns, cities and other employment zones. Less cars moving on the road also contributed to an increased sense of safety and tranquillity within residential areas. It is therefore important that we take whatever positives we can from this year and ensure that health, well-being and flexibility is built into all development in the future.

The recent revision to the ‘Building for a Healthy Life 12’ (BfL12), now ‘Building for a Healthy Life’ (BHL) was published in July of this year and includes some initial reactions to the challenges faced by the Covid-19 pandemic. This guidance is designed to put the health and wellbeing of people at the forefront of housing development and encourages designers and developers to consider the choices made throughout their proposals.

BHL is backed by Homes England and the NHS and the updated format moves away from the 12 set questions of BfL12 which were designed to help assess the quality of housing schemes. Instead, BHL provides 12 key headings, design justification and suitable and non-suitable image examples by which to consider. Design flexibility and creativity is therefore opened up to developers rather than the ‘box ticking’ exercise which was sometimes attributed to the former BfL12.

One element that the new BHL has taken from BfL 12, is the structure of having 12 main considerations for developers. These have been split into three categories:

  • Integrated neighbourhoods;
  • Distinctive places; and
  • Streets for all.

Individual headings include ‘homes for everyone’, ‘well defined streets and spaces’ and ‘green and blue infrastructure’. Each heading should be considered in the context of the proposed development, rather than followed as a simple checklist, to ensure that benefits are maximised for neighbouring and future residents.

The timely publication of BHL highlights the need to create residential development that is resilient to the challenges of modern-day life and “the new normal”. If working from home is a viable choice for people in the future, residential developments could provide the infrastructure, spaces and flexibility to increase productivity, encourage social interactions and truly reduce car dependency. At Pegasus Group, we believe that combining the principles of BHL with a comprehensive investigation and analysis of a site can unlock valuable opportunities for housing schemes. Incorporating the existing blue and green infrastructure, enhancing local connections and identifying the needs of existing and future residents is paramount to the delivery of healthy development. This approach forms a crucial foundation on which proud communities are able to grow and thrive.

If you’re in the early stages of a development, Pegasus Group can help you to utilise the benefits of the BHL toolkit. Our multi-disciplinary team specialise in Urban Design, Planning, Landscape Architecture, Transport and Heritage. For more information, please contact us.