AT A glance, they might seem like any other family houses on any other residential street, but two homes in Huntingdonshire have been launched into the limelight as part of a green experiment.

AT A glance, they might seem like any other family houses on any other residential street, but two homes in Huntingdonshire have been launched into the limelight as part of a green experiment.

Councillors and officials across the district gathered at St Audrey Lane in St Ives and Manor Farm Road in St Neots on Friday for a house-party with a difference.

Both homes have been transformed to the highest environmental specifications in just 15 weeks and at a cost of £50,000, much of it funded by suppliers, for a project aimed at showcasing the latest domestic eco methods.

Improvements range from simple modifications such as low energy lighting and eco paint to complete overhauls of the heating system. Solar panels have been installed at the St Ives property to generate electricity and hot water.

An air source heat pump absorbs heat from the air and uses it to warm the house. A rainwater harvesting system collects water for use in toilet cisterns and washing machines.

Loft and cavity insulation has been fitted into both properties, and the front and rear gardens have been turned into a mecca for wildlife. And even the roof in St Audrey’s Lane serves a dual purpose. As well as keeping the home inhabitants dry, sedum mats have been installed to encourage biodiversity and create yet more green space.

Both properties were awarded Super Home status by the Sustainable Energy Academy. The academy aims to promote ways of reducing the carbon footprint of buildings and communities through a network of Super Homes open to the public across the UK.

Speaking at the launch, Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly hoped the retro-fitted homes would become models for the local community to follow.

He said: “Actually, so much of this stuff is common sense. It is important these homes are taken as a way of going forward. Thirty per cent of emissions are from housing.”

Councillor Jonathan Gray, environment portfolio holder for Huntingdonshire District Council, said: “The project started three years ago. We bought these homes just as anyone else would. We wanted to buy a couple of standard homes that you would find in anyone of Huntingdonshire’s three market towns. These homes are pretty typical of the building stock.

“Thirty local companies were involved in fitting them out. They have learned a lot and we have learned a lot. Retro-fitting houses is not mainstream and the builders have been learning a lot as we go along.

“A whole of lot pretty clever stuff has been going on in terms of trying to make sure that each room does not use more energy than it needs. There are even sensors that are able to switch heat on and off on demand for each room.

“There have been two aims. First to try and de-mystify all of this stuff. We want people to come and visit, and think ‘I can do that.’ We are not expecting people to do everything overnight.

“We also want to be able to get tradesmen to learn the lessons we have learned. We have 67,000 private homes in this district. The vast majority of them could be improved relatively cheaply and easily.”