A period eco home is about to be unveiled in Birmingham. Marsya Lennox looks at what will be one of the UK's first.

An historic pioneer of showpiece housing is to develop an eco first for the city - with an innovative "green" conversion.

Bournville Village Trust, best known for its ground-breaking garden suburb built for local workers a century ago, has fully embraced the modern, environmental message in its latest project.

It is to produce one of the first environmentally-friendly older homes in the UK, setting it up as a shining example to developers nationwide.

The raw material is the most modest property one might imagine, a mid-terrace house of 1920, tenanted for many years and ripe for a few 21st century comforts, but this is no "changing rooms" stunt.

What could be nicely spruced up with some paint is to get the full treatment, stripped back to its old bones for a full green makeover.

The internationally famous housing association picked 264 Selly Oak Road in Bournville and work has started on the eco transformation.

It will be set up as a demonstration house to showcase the latest thinking in environmentally sound modernisation techniques for older houses.

There will be geothermal ground source heat pumps with underfloor heating, solar thermal units, a wind turbine, photovoltaic units, sophisticated insulation materials, joinery of sustainable timber, "green" floor coverings, "E" glazing, rain water harvesting and water saving devices.

Add to this the specially designed kitchen and bathroom fittings, all environmentally friendly - plus easy stuff too, like low-energy lighting.

Even the garden space will come in for some green thinking, landscaped specially with an eye on environmental impact - and even some organic planting.

It is a worthy move in a wider world of housing, the effort to educate and inform, much in the tradition of the philanthropist Cadbury family who wanted the best for their workers and tenants.

A diversity of groups are the target audience, from fellow developers and housing associations to individual home improvers - even youngsters, and future consumers.

Year nine pupils at King's Norton Girls School will work with the trust, preparing an eco home project to display in the exhibition house.

There is commercial involvement too as various specialist suppliers line up to aid the project in return for show space.

Most exciting is the fact that a real family will move into 264 Selly Oak Road after a two month run as an eco showpiece.

Apparently, potential tenants are queuing up for the chance, and in the first 12 months, the running cost performance of the property will be closely monitored for future comparative studies.

Bournville Village Trust, established by George Cadbury in 1900 to provide affordable housing in a model environment, is involved in a number of initiatives across the region.

The green agenda figures high in the priorities and various efforts are underway to reduce the estate's carbon emissions.

A "green team" is chaired by the chief executive Peter Roach and current issues range from car users' allowances and conserving power to using e-mail instead of sending out printed paper.

Peter Roach said: "We all have an important role to play as individuals in helping to reduce the effects of global warming. Climate changes are not going to go away and we need to look at reducing our dependency on non-renewable resources and creating a more sustainable future for us all."

The trust is liaising with green experts such as Friends of the Earth and Richard Baines of the Sustainable Development for the Black Country Housing Group.

British Gas has provided a substantial grant and local manufacturers are providing vital materials including kitchen and bathroom fittings.

When it is complete, the house will be in line for an "EcoHomes" certificate from the government - likely to be the first house of this type to receive the accreditation.

The project could not come at a better time to prick the conscience of an industry, criticised for dragging its heels in building "green".

Property professionals in Birmingham have voiced despair over the shortage of innovative housebuilding schemes, although the government has called for new homes to be designed and built carbon neutral within 10 years.

And though the energy assessments, now built into the Home Information Packs, are being heralded as one way forward to raise public awareness, the new scoring system for ordinary home owners is hardly inspiring.

Even housebuilders starting from scratch, without the complications of converting an older property, are unwilling to spend more on eco construction unless the buying public are happy to foot the bill.

Until the purchasers demand green features and impressive green provenance, the developers will be slow to commit to an extra four per cent cost for eco features, rising to 20 per cent more for producing something carbon neutral.

Bournville Village Trust is not a new convert to green thinking. At a number of its housing schemes it has introduced innovative elements such as solar panels and grey water recycling, for instance at the planned urban village at Lightmoor in Telford.

There are other urban villages developed and managed by the trust at Bordesley and Nechells. It also owns and manages schemes in Redditch as well as more than 500 properties in Shropshire.

The new "green house" at Selly Oak Road is due for unveiling in October 2007.