Birmingham’s eco village attracts international interest
Birmingham’s first eco village has been hailed a success and has attracted international interest from countries looking to mirror the scheme. Summerfield, in Ladywood, became an eco-village in 2006, with £2.3 million invested in the area to help make homes more energy efficient and teach residents how to use less energy. The project saw six large Victorian properties transformed into eco homes, with another 329 homes fitted with solar panels, super insulation, energy-efficient heating and lighting.
The project, by affordable housing association Family Housing, Summerfield Residents Association, Birmingham City Council, Urban Living and Be Birmingham was designed to reduce fuel poverty for people on low incomes. The area has now been visited by American councillor Rex Burkholder who wanted to find out why it has flourished, as part of research into climate change policies that have worked across Europe.
Since the area received its green makeover it is estimated fuel bills are being reduced by at least £150 per year per household and the eco-technology produces on average 60 per cent of the hot water used by each household per year. Residents’ attitudes to green issues have been transformed with an amazing 75% saying they’ve changed how they think about energy.
Residents’ behavior has been positively influenced by the scheme with many changing their lifestyle habits in order to be eco-friendly and to take full advantage of the energy-savings on offer. For example, many people reported they had begun taking their showers in the evening, rather than the morning, when the water heated by the sun throughout the day was still hot.
Further added-value spin offs included training placements for local unemployed residents resulting in valuable work experience as well as one resident gaining full-time employment and creating a genuinely sustainable community.
Selena Ellis, project co-ordinator at Family Housing, said: “It was a good surprise to find out that our work had been highlighted as an example of international good practice. We worked closely with Birmingham City Council and our other partners to transform this estate to reduce fuel poverty and we’ve since rolled out a similar project in Lozells.”
Mr Burkholder’s research was on behalf of the German Marshall Fund, a US policy group dedicated to increasing co-operation between North America and Europe.
He described the Victorian homes as “beautiful” but said: “I understand the challenges this poses to make homes more environmentally efficient. For me the success is that Family Housing was able to talk with residents to discuss how to make their lives more sustainable and this was turned into action.”
Article excerpted from www.greenbuildingpress.co.uk
Brilliant idea! Without help from the resident, eco village will never be successful. Both parties have done a great job. Let’s hope this project will be long last and influence others too.