We present a modification of the integral length-scale approximation (ILSA) model originally proposed by Piomelli et al. [Piomelli et al., J. Fluid Mech. 766, 499 (2015)] and apply it to plane channel flow and a backward-facing step. In the ILSA models the length scale is expressed in terms of the integral length scale of turbulence and is determined by the flow characteristics, decoupled from the simulation grid. In the original formulation the model coefficient was constant, determined by requiring a desired global contribution of the unresolved subfilter scales (SFSs) to the dissipation rate, known as SFS activity; its value was found by a set of coarse-grid calculations. Here we develop two modifications. We de- fine a measure of SFS activity (based on turbulent stresses), which adds to the robustness of the model, particularly at high Reynolds numbers, and removes the need for the prior coarse-grid calculations: The model coefficient can be computed dynamically and adapt to large-scale unsteadiness. Furthermore, the desired level of SFS activity is now enforced locally (and not integrated over the entire volume, as in the original model), providing better control over model activity and also improving the near-wall behavior of the model. Application of the local ILSA to channel flow and a backward-facing step and comparison with the original ILSA and with the dynamic model of Germano et al. [Germano et al., Phys. Fluids A 3, 1760 (1991)] show better control over the model contribution in the local ILSA, while the positive properties of the original formulation (including its higher accuracy compared to the dynamic model on coarse grids) are maintained. The backward-facing step also highlights the advantage of the decoupling of the model length scale from the mesh.