Members of Friends of the Earth had a guided tour of one terraced house that has been retro-fitted to Ecohomes ‘excellent’ standard by Bournville Village Trust. The evening was cold and dark, but 264 Selly Oak Road was bright and warm at little environmental impact. One of the most significant features of the house is a ground source heat pump, which has a 300 foot borehole (!) and pumps heat into a solid floor and upstairs radiators. Walls are insulated inside and outside. Sunpipes make any dim interiors bright. Solar panels pre-heat the water, leaving only a gas cooker and coal fire burning fossil fuels. The garden has a vegetable plot, greenhouse, even a hedgehog house. There are 50 eco features, with timber double glazing, wool carpets and a mostly recycled kitchen. Only a cycle store was missing, we pointed out.


The performance will now be measured with the new tenants living there. Bournville Village Trust will then decide which features to make standard in future refurbishments. We left excited and inspired by an enlightened property owner, who is working to bring high levels of energy efficiency to ordinary rented housing. The 80% cuts in emissions from British homes proposed in the ‘Home Truths’ report from Friends of the Earth & Coop Bank seem quite achievable if we choose to take action.