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Affordable smart homes become a reality in Hexham

  • 22 Jun 2016

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A pioneering project in Northumberland has seen the completion of the UK’s first ever housing association homes to use smart technology to improve energy efficiency. PSB discovers more…

Two Castles Housing Association, working alongside Esh Property Services under the Hadrian Development Solutions Partnership, has completed 26 affordable homes in the new £3.4m Anick View development.

The new development, situated on Corbridge Road, on the eastern side of Hexham, comprise seven two-bedroom houses, six two bedroom bungalows, nine three bedroom houses and four one-bedroom flats, all of which have been let to local people with an existing connection to the town and its surrounding area.

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One such couple, Joshua and Rachael, were delighted to get the keys to their first home – a brand new, two-bedroomed, smart home at the scheme.

Rachael said: “We saw these homes being built and both said how lovely it would be to have one. We were living with Joshua’s mum at the time and, as well as having a 30 minute journey to work, it was difficult for Joshua’s daughter to come and stay over.

“We went through the letting process but didn’t dream we’d get one, so were shocked but delighted when we were given the news.”

There are an estimated 2.35 million households across England currently living in fuel poverty. The new homes at Anick View use smart technology to monitor energy efficiency and will eventually help shape future building design. Although it is early days, residents are already seeing the benefits of living in a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient home.

Rachael said: “Two Castles told us about the property’s energy efficiency and how this new smart system could help improve energy use now and in the future. We feel really grateful to be here and part of such an important project. As it’s our first home together, we weren’t sure how much the energy costs would be but we’ve been truly surprised at how cheap the house is to run.

“As part of the smart technology, we have a touchscreen monitor which tells you how much energy you are using at any one time. This means we can monitor our energy usage and cut back on activities that use too much. It really does make you think twice about how you can save energy. Moving here has made a huge difference to our lives.”

Using sensor monitoring equipment, designed by software solutions company Capita, Two Castles will be able to capture and analyse household data, such as air quality, temperature and humidity. The project is one of the first of its kind for the sector and will help tackle overheating and fuel poverty, as well as helping to provide services to vulnerable residents.

Roger Birkinshaw, housing director at Capita Software Services, said: “This project brings the Internet of Things into the home to tackle fuel poverty and record actual property performance. This data will provide Two Castles with the information required to make informed decisions about the condition of the property. Not only is it expected to save money, this project will also educate and change lives for the better.”

Graham Morgan, divisional director at Esh Property Services, said: “As specialists in creating affordable homes, we recognise that sometimes residents can take a little while to get used to the new technology which has been fitted into their homes.

So, through our customer service teams, we have arranged a series of workshops and home visits which are helping residents get to grips with the new energy controls. We’ve had great feedback – residents tell us that these sessions are really helpful.

“In addition, two homes have been fitted with a comprehensive monitoring system to follow the effectiveness of the new energy saving measures as part of day-today family living. We are looking forward to working with the families to help them maximise energy – and consequently financial – savings that they are able to achieve.”

Rob Brittain, property services director at Two Castles Housing Association, said: “Two Castles is committed to building sustainable communities and our high quality, affordable homes across Northumberland are vital to helping local families remain in their community and ensuring the sustainability of rural life.

“Looking ahead, we will continue to work closely with our partners to deliver well-designed, affordable homes in the communities that need it most.”

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