5 Reasons to Visit Future Homes Newcastle with Kids

*This is a paid collaboration with Newcastle Building Society 

The Great Exhibition of the North has had its ups and downs for me (which you can read about here). One thing I have loved about the exhibition is that it's forced me to discover new places in our city and learn about projects that I wouldn't have otherwise known about. One of those projects is Future Homes Newcastle.

The Future Homes Project aims to build accessible housing in towns and cities which work for all and can be adapted as life changes. The idea is to ensure new housing is sustainable, utilises technology and is accessible. The project has funding to build 48 dwellings on the Newcastle Helix site in 2019 (subject to planning permission). These innovative houses will be built to last and will be designed to change through the years with a person as their lifestyle and needs change (eg flexible walls so you can add bedrooms with ease as your family grows).

Newcastle Building Society has a very strong community focus and has helped to fund a special exhibition as part of the Great Exhibition of the North which invites the public down to have a look at the work the Future Homes Alliance are doing, their plans for the new dwellings in Newcastle are a chance to use some innovative technology including Virtual Reality headsets to walk around a mocked-up future home and discover some of the facilities they may offer.

I went along to the exhibition with Harry (11) , Heidi (9) and Jack (7). You'll find Future Homes on the ground floor of The Core in Newcastle City Centre - I'd never been here before but it was pretty easy to find. It's opposite The People's Kitchen, behind Sandman Signature and just up from China Town. It's within easy walking distance of the Discovery Museum and The Mining Institute which are both packed with FREE Great Exhibition of the North experiences and I'd say combining these three places will make for a really great free day out in Newcastle this summer.

Future Homes Newcastle has been one of my favourite exhibition of the Great Exhibition of the North so far. It's interesting, thought-provoking and hands-on. Younger kids will enjoy it too but I think children and teens aged 8+ (plus their parents) will really get the most out of the exhibition. Here are 5 reasons to visit.....

5 Reasons to Visit Future Homes Newcastle with Kids 

1 - The volunteers 

Honestly, Future Homes Newcastle is a pretty small space - it's not on the same scale as a lot of the other exhibitions on offer during GetNorth2018. I didn't really know what to do or where to go first but there's a fabulous group of volunteers on-site to help out. The volunteers improved our experience ten-fold by explaining more about the project, helping us with the technology and suggesting other parts of the exhibition to visit which we may have missed if we'd just walked around ourselves. Nothing beats speaking to a real person and interacting/discussing an exhibition rather than just simply reading information on a board. If you visit, please ask a volunteer to show you around - they'll be more than happy to help and you'll get so much more out of the experience. I'm quite a shy person so was thankful as they approached me when I entered the room - everyone was super friendly and I felt at ease.

2 - See plans for future homes 

It's really interesting to check out the designs of what the future homes planned for Newcastle in 2019 may look like. The exhibition includes a slideshow with comfortable seating OR you can use a virtual reality headset to walk around the rooms of a future home yourself OR you can use an iPad and augmented reality to walk around the rooms of a future home and discover more about what's going to be inside. Future Homes really utilise space and technology and I only wish we'd been this forward-thinking as a society years ago.

We all really loved using the VR and iPad to walk around a Future Home and it provoked lots of conversations with the kids about the environment, sustainability and design - all the kind of things I want the future generation to be thinking about! As a little preview, future homes will include adaptable kitchens and bathrooms with moveable worktops, equipment to capture and utilise rainwater, community space, micro-allotments and so much more. You'll have to check out the exhibition for yourself to find out more!

3 - Try Virtual Reality for FREE

This is what Harry and Heidi were most excited about. They are obsessed with using virtual reality but it's always pretty pricey so something they don't get to do too often (it was £15 for 15 minutes at Nethermined at the weekend and is £60 for an hour at Pirate's Escape in Whitley Bay). Children and grown-ups aged 8+ can have a try of a mini VR game completely free of charge at this exhibition. The headset transports you to a wind turbine and it's your job to find faults in the structure (broken lights etc...) before your time runs out. If you've never watched anyone using VR before, it's hilarious to watch. Personally, I find it a little too real and normally end up crawling on the floor! Harry and Heidi did well and discovered 44% of faults on their first try which was pretty average (or maybe the volunteers were just being nice). I love how virtual reality has been incorporated into a teaching tool like this and it's a great example of how older kids, teens and adults can learn through play.

4 - A chance to discuss renewable energy

There's a big wind turbine model as part of the exhibition (it's travelled over here all the way from America). It's linked to an iPad and shows you how much energy is being generated etc..... and how wind turbines could be used in the future to power whole towns and cities. Wind turbines are a controversial subject so I asked the kids their thoughts on them - they all immediately said they were good. I asked if they thought they were an eyesore and they said no not at all and maybe if people thought that, they could paint them pretty colours or ensure they blend into their backgrounds - this actually isn't a bad idea!

5 - Use LEGO to design your own ideas

Finally, there's a LEGO table with special prompts such as - build a future bin or design a future kitchen. Harry, Heidi and Jack really enjoyed this and being prompted to build something new was good for them. Harry created a waste disposal unit which would get rid of toxins and produce energy for the home through kinetic energy, Jack designed a bin which would zap any rubbish and cause it to disintegrate. It would also scan the area for anyone littering and if anyone was caught, they'd be put in jail (maybe something as harsh as this would work!). Heidi decided to design her dream bedroom which to be honest pretty much looked like her bedroom at home now and was covered in teddy bears.

As the kids played with the LEGO, I spent some time reading the displays which were really interesting. Here are some takeaway facts/thoughts:
  • By 2040, nearly one in four people in the UK will be aged 65 or over. Poor housing for older people costs the NHS at least £643m every year. Imagine a home that changes as you and your family grow? 
  • Newcastle collects 142,000 tonnes of rubbish every year - that's enough to fill St James Park entirely every three years. Household rubbish collection has been the same for 130 years - is it time to change and find a solution that's more efficient? 
Thought-provoking stuff eh! I really enjoyed visiting the Future Homes exhibition with Harry, Heidi and Jack. It's ideal for families with tweens and teens and is one of those places where you leave feeling inspired and wanting to do/learn more. On our bus journey home, the kids had already decided they were going to incorporate some of the things they'd learned into their Minecraft village at home to help it be more sustainable. It is an exhibition that young and old can enjoy too - some pensioners were getting to grips with the VR before us and I really felt like I learned something too.

How to visit Future Homes 

Future Homes is FREE to visit. You don't need to book - simply drop-in. You'll find the exhibition on the ground floor of 'The Core' building. The exhibition is open daily from 10am-5:30pm until 9 September. We spent 90 minutes in there but I think most visits would last around an hour - I was asking lots of questions and there were four of us who wanted to try everything. If you'd like to use any of the VR or augmented reality experiences, simply ask a volunteer to show you.

This exhibition really provided us with a lot of food for thought - if you visit, let me know what you think.....



  1. I'm definitely going to go and visit now - I don't have kids but the VR headset looks so cool!


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