Award-winning homes of the future showcased at Holyrood reception

(from left) Professor Angus JM Watson from NHS Highland, Professor Susan Craw from Robert Gordon University Aberdeen, Matt Stevenson from Carbon Dynamic, Lucy Fraser from Albyn Housing Society, Erin Grant from Albyn Housing Society, Douglas Russell from Albyn Housing Society

(from left) Professor Angus JM Watson from NHS Highland, Professor Susan Craw from Robert Gordon University Aberdeen, Matt Stevenson from Carbon Dynamic, Lucy Fraser from Albyn Housing Society, Erin Grant from Albyn Housing Society, Douglas Russell from Albyn Housing Society

A ground-breaking project that could enable people to live independently in their communities for longer and potentially predict and prevent episodes of ill health has been backed by a Highland MSP.

Highlands and Islands MSP Maree Todd, a member of the Scottish Parliament’s health and sport committee, announced her support last night at a Holyrood reception showcasing the FitHome, which was hosted by Scotland’s Futures Forum, the Scottish Parliament’s futures think-tank.

A unique concept developed by Albyn Housing Society, modular construction firm Carbon Dynamic and NHS Highland, the Saltire Award-winning FitHome has been co-designed by partners, potential tenants and health and care professionals using virtual reality technology.

Central to the concept is the use of various levels of ambient sensors that capture data and predictive health analytics, allowing people to receive support at home in their local community. This, in turn, could help prevent hospital admissions and enable early hospital discharge, delivering enormous savings for health and care services.

Speaking of the project, Maree said: “This project is an exemplary showcase of innovation coming out of the Highlands that demonstrates how cross-sectoral working in areas such as housing, health, care, construction, education, and training can lead to pioneering new approaches that keep Scotland at the leading edge.”

The origins of the FitHome go back to 2008 when sadly, a tenant was found dead in his home, having lain unnoticed for over a year. Vowing to ensure this could never happen again, Albyn commissioned new research exploring potential solutions only to find that the ideal fix didn’t yet exist. As a result, the society decided to develop its own system that could be adopted across its growing portfolio of homes.

Artist's impressions of the interior of a ‘FIT Home’

Artist’s impressions of the interior of a ‘FIT Home’

Lucy Fraser, head of innovation at FitHome lead partner, Albyn Housing Society, said: “At the heart of the FitHome concept is a shared vision which states that everyone should have the choice to live safe and well in their homes and communities for as long as they want. What’s more, it demonstrates a collaborative approach to wellness by combining the principles of health, care and housing with modular home design and ‘Internet of Things’ technology – something we must embrace and take advantage of as we delve deeper into the digital age.

“Just as important, the FitHome and its social business model is replicable throughout Scotland, the UK and globally, delivering a real solution that puts the customer first as well as directly addressing inequality and growing healthcare challenges, and creating training and employability opportunities.
“We‘re really encouraged by the enormous support we’ve had for this project, and very much look forward to the launch of our first pilot homes during autumn this year.”

The pilot phase – 16 homes at Dalmore in Alness, Ross-shire – will provide proof of concept. The project concepts are being supported by a Scottish Government housing grant and funding from the Inverness and Highland City–Region Deal, whilst researchers at the University of the Highlands and Islands will develop the proof of concept research with financial support from the Digital Health and Care Institute.

The Data Lab – the Scottish Innovation Centre charged with generating economic, social and scientific value from big data – is also supporting the project by funding research into predicting falls, which is being led by Professor Susan Craw, an artificial intelligence expert at Robert Gordon University.

Other project leads include Matt Stevenson, managing director at Carbon Dynamic (the company behind Edinburgh’s Social Bite village), and Professor Angus JM Watson, director of research, development and innovation at NHS Highland.