Innovative residential research project takes home major industry award

A unique housing development in the North East has won a major social impact award for its positive contribution to society.

Gateshead Innovation Village has been named residential development of the year for the region in the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Social Impact Awards 2020.

The awards recognise built environment projects that have had a transformational contribution to society and showcase the very best developments across the North East.

Gateshead Innovation Village was created by Home Group, one of the UK’s largest providers of housing, health and social care, and brought together five different manufacturers of modern methods of construction (MMC) and modular design.

Working with the British Research Establishment, the project tested the ability of the different house types to enhance living and improve energy efficiency and sustainability.

Simon Williams, Head of Delivery at Home Group, said: “The RICS award is a fantastic recognition of the bold project we undertook. In order to tackle housing shortages, we need to think differently and MMC and modular housing gives us the chance to do exactly that.

“However, we couldn’t just rely on the assumption that MMC and modular provide quality and efficiency, we had to do something to prove it. That is precisely why we embarked on the Gateshead Innovation Village project.

“We have been testing every stage of the process, from materials used and ease of construction, through to analysing how people live in each house type, to better understand what benefits they bring and we’ve already been able to use some findings on our new developments.”

As part of the Innovation Village project, Northumbria University are also testing a range of smart digital technologies that are designed to benefit some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Tools including virtual assistants, sensors, apps and off-the-shelf smart devices, such as Amazon Echo, are being used by older people, those with mental health needs, and people with learning disabilities and autism.

Researchers are examining how they can assist individuals in different ways, such as prompts and reminders about their everyday activities, developing and maintaining their skills, and even monitoring their day-to-day behaviour.

Glenda Cook, Professor of Nursing at Northumbria University, said: “Incredible social impact can be achieved through use of digital technologies that are becoming widely available to everyone and can support independence and improve quality of life.

“We know that some people have problems with recalling or articulating key words and prompts, such as ‘Alexa’ or ‘Hey Google,’ to use these emerging technologies and so our research team have introduced a personalised system specially to support these individuals.

“The feedback we have received so far from users and service providers has already indicated the real value of this approach and we hope to continue to build on what has been achieved.”

Once completed, all the research from Gateshead Innovation Village will be published and made available to help the housing industry deliver more efficient, environmentally friendly and suitable homes.