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 make homes more energy efficient and teach people how to use less energy.
The project saw six large Victorian properties transformed into eco homes, with a further 329 homes fitted with solar panels, super insulation, energy-efficient heating and lighting.
Eco packs containing energy efficiency information were delivered to hundreds of homes, and part of the church hall was converted into an eco-office to show people how energy-saving methods can be used to good effect.
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.
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.
A spokeswoman for Family Housing said 76 per cent of people have now changed how they think about energy and their behaviour has been positively influenced by the scheme, with many changing their lifestyle in order to be eco-friendly.
For example, many now take their showers in the evening, rather than the morning, when the water heated by the sun throughout the day was still hot.
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 south Lozells.”
Mr Burkholder, whose research was on behalf of the German Marshall Fund (GMF), described the Victorian homes as “beautiful”. He added: “But 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 improve their liveability and make their lives more sustainable and this was then turned into action.”