HUNTINGDONSHIRE S ground-breaking green scheme to demonstrate to residents how they can save both cash and emissions should go live next spring. The district council is the only authority in the country involved in a building research project to fit energ

HUNTINGDONSHIRE'S ground-breaking green scheme to demonstrate to residents how they can save both cash and emissions should go live next spring.

The district council is the only authority in the country involved in a building research project to fit energy-saving devices to homes built in the 1960s and 1970s to prove how much can be saved.

HDC has chosen that period of construction because extensive building in those two decades means those homes now make up the bulk of thermally-inefficient properties [modern homes should be built to higher environmental standards].

So the council has bought a semi-detached home in St Neots and a detached house in St Ives, which it plans to convert, use first as test-beds then as 'show homes' and then, after around three years, sell back into the market at what it hopes will be a substantial profit to Council Tax payers.

The semi, in Manor Farm Road, St Neots, will have the most affordable improvements, such as a condensing gas boiler, water-efficient taps and fittings, a water-harvesting unit for toilet-flushing and other uses that do not need pure water, energy-efficient lighting, solar water-heating panels, thermostatic radiator valves, and well-insulated loft, wall cavities and floors.

"The property is in the flood plain, so we shall also raise the electric sockets," said Paul José, HDC's head of environmental management. "These are lots of cost-saving measures, so that people can choose from a menu in terms of cost and savings."

The council has just given itself planning consent for the detached house it plans to extend at the junction of Ramsey Road and St Audrey's Lane in St Ives, and it has dome a deal with the Crossways Church across the road to provide parking for visitors. HDC has already explained the project to neighbours, who were overwhelmingly positive, he added.

In addition to the basic measures to be provided in the St Neots house, this one will have a small extension with a green roof, an air-source heat pump - which takes heat from the air and generates on average three times as much as it uses - a combination of under-floor and radiator heating, and photovoltaic panels to provide much of the power for appliances.

For part of the year, the house will be 'carbon-negative', supplying surplus energy to the National Grid

Mr José said an original intention to fit ground-source heating, where the ambient temperature a few metres below the earth's surface is harnessed, had proved too expensive to retro-fit to an already-built property.

HDC paid a total of around £330,000 for the two houses and will spend a further £100,000 fitting the energy-saving devices to show how they work. Some of the kits will be supplied and fitted by manufacturers free or at reduced cost in the expectation that the show-homes will generate customers.