15th January 2014

How Long Should a Home Last?

There is no organisation, standard, regulation or piece of legislation that requires a minimum lifespan for a building. Jenny Smith-Andrews at H+H examines the expected and potential lifespan of a home.

The checklist for a new build project is extensive and constantly growing. However, at no point in any of the regulations does it say how long a building show last for.

Previously the British Standard 7543: 1992 suggested a 60-year life span but this was not included in the standard which replaced it, BS ISO 15686. Sixty years still seems to be the accepted norm despite the lack of regulation but I would argue that this is a rather arbitrary figure which came about as a result of financial modelling concerning assets rather than scientific evidence. In Europe the focus is on a lifespan of 50 years but it is my belief that any move to bring the UK in line with this would be a move in the wrong direction.

In the UK 39 per cent of our housing stock is over 65 years old and it is no secret that the UK urgently needs new housing to cope with the continual growth in population. If we continue building houses at the current rate then houses built today will need to last for over one thousand years.

The two most common methods of housing construction in the UK are brick and block and lightweight frame structures typically made from timber. The most recent statistics from the NHBC suggest that brick and block construction accounts for around 93 per cent of new home registrations. This is interesting because timber frame construction continues to be popular in the social housing sector.

There is a common perception that building with timber is more efficient with regards to speed and sustainability. However, masonry constructions can also be quick to build, environmentally sound and offer many advantages over alternatives.

The robust and durable nature of masonry is very popular with both specifiers and home owners. From a home owner's perspective, this manifests itself in simple characteristics such as the ability to attach heavy object directly into the walls. For the specifiers, it is about longer-term planning and air tightness. Masonry is more flexible when it comes to altering or extending the layout of a building in the future and thanks to materials and systems such as aircrete and H+H's Thin-Joint System Celfix mortar, air tightness levels will be maintained over the lifespan of the building.

Up and down the country there are still people living in masonry buildings constructed during the Victorian era. Rather than thinking short term, i.e one generation, like the Victorians, we should be constructing solid buildings that will provide housing for many future generations to come.