Alliance plans homes for the future in Newcastle’s Helix innovation quarter

Newcastle Helix (Demo)

A community interest company in Newcastle has unveiled its vision of the future for sustainable – and “affordable” – urban housing, with proposals to develop 66 such homes in the city’s innovation district.

The Future Homes project aims to design and build this community of homes on a site on Buckingham Street, situated within the 24-acre Newcastle Helix, and in walking distance of the city centre’s shops, cafes and restaurants.

Newcastle Helix stands on the western edge of the city centre, within sight of the St James’ Park football ground. The city quarter is described as a “hybrid”, with developments aimed at international science and technology businesses, as well as residential elements.

Future Homes is conceived as an “exemplar of sustainable urban housing”, featuring flexible living space intended to suit residents’ changing needs. These will include concepts such as moveable partitions, so that rooms and layouts can be configured to suit the needs of different households.

The project involves developing three buildings, each with six to eight storeys, with construction made more efficient by using modular steel facades. There would also be extensive communal landscaping and green roofs.

The plans aim to maximise the building’s solar aspect, with all homes featuring floor to ceiling south facing windows, and to provide high quality private and semi-public spaces.

It’s the brainchild of the Future Homes Alliance (FHA), a CIC formed by Newcastle University, Ryder Architecture, Zero Carbon Futures, the Elders Council, the Sustainable Communities Initiative, and the Innovation Super Network.

The FHA is working in partnership with Newcastle City Council and its development agent Karbon Homes.

“It is well known that our quality of life is very dependent on the quality of our housing,” said Newcastle University’s Professor Rose Gilroy, the FHA’s founder and chair. “Our current housing stock does not respond to our changing lives by allowing adaptation; it does not protect us from fuel poverty or fuel insecurity, nor has it embraced new technologies. The Future Homes project will throw down a challenge to the housebuilders by creating new ways to live well in cities.”

Philip Miller, project architect at Ryder Architecture, added: “The Future Homes development is the embodiment of a collaborative and responsive design process where the needs and aspirations of the community acted as the catalyst for change. The scheme puts the quality of life of its residents at the forefront and enables their homes to change as their needs do, in a sustainable and affordable way.”

Legal & General Capital, the key investor behind the development of Helix, has sponsored Future Homes holding citizen workshops with Ryder Architecture to help co-design the project and its design and performance outcomes.

The design has been developed in collaboration with Newcastle Helix and its masterplanning team.

The partners have been working together for over two years now, developing a substantial base of research led by an extensive period of consultation with the local community, to agree proposals ready to be presented for consideration by city planners.

The buildings will all benefit from a range of communal facilities including gardens, mini-allotments, and cycle storage – all aimed at making the homes as sustainable and inexpensive to run as possible.

The concept of Future Homes was created to help tackle issues that the country’s existing homes do not properly address:

  • By 2040, one in seven people in the UK will be over 75
  • 25% of young people aged under 35 have to live with their parents
  • 4.5 million people in the UK are in fuel poverty
  • Air pollution costs the UK economy £54 billion per year and causes 680 deaths per year in the North East
  • Cold, damp housing leads to a £864 million spend for the NHS
  • The NHS spends £435 million per year on falls related injuries, most of which happen within the home

The intention is for up to five ‘demonstrator’ homes to be used by industrial partners as test beds for innovative products, trialling a range of technologies, to enable data to be collected which may lead to wider adoption in housebuilding elsewhere.

Amended plans have now been agreed by the Newcastle Helix board / Future Homes Alliance and submitted to Newcastle City Council.

The homes will all be “affordable” and will be a mixture of social rent and rent to buy, giving opportunities to all sections of the community in Newcastle to live in the new development.

The Future Homes project will form just part of the residential element of the Helix site, which in total will deliver just under 400 homes by 2025.

Ged Walsh, director of development and asset management at Karbon Homes, said: “It’s important for landlords like Karbon to innovate, to explore new ways of providing homes, so we’re excited to be working with our partners in the Future Homes Alliance to bring this new development forward.”


Main Image: An architect’s drawing of how the new ‘Future Homes’ development will look, subject to achieving planning consent. Credit: Ryder Architecture.


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