Green buildings open their doors to the public

A 1920s terraced house retro-fitted with the latest environmental technologies became the first to welcome visitors as part of a scheme offering the chance to look inside 'green' homes.

The Green Buildings Open Days, organised by the Norfolk branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), are aimed at anyone considering energy-saving improvements or sustainable renovation.

The series of guided tours in September gives visitors the chance to get independent advice from homeowners – regardless of the scale of their ambitions or budget.

Norwich South MP Simon Wright formally launched the scheme yesterday at a green home on Neville Street in the city.

The owner, former Green county councillor Chris Hull, has installed measures including underfloor insulation, a wood burning stove and secondary glazing.

It is one of 24 homes and community halls opening across Norfolk, ranging from ambitious eco-home design projects to smaller houses and bungalows which have been upgraded with affordable sustainable technologies.

Mr Hull, 59, said: 'My interest was to show what could be done retrospectively with leaky old houses – and I have discovered you can do quite a lot.

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'I would tell anyone to just go for it and start by looking at the easiest things first. You can save money and do a good thing for the environment. And it is fun – it doesn't have to be an ordeal.'

Mr Hull has also constructed a home-made system which collects rainwater from his guttering into a butt and feeds it through a plastic pipe into his bathroom to flush his toilet.

'It looks a bit Heath Robinson, but that's part of the point,' he said. 'Anyone can do it. It cost me about �120 to do it two-and-a-half years ago, and it has already paid for itself. My water bill is now �5 a month. My gas and electricity bills have also been steadily going down over the last few years when a lot of other people's have been going up.'

Mr Wright has worked on the parliamentary Energy Bill committee, which looked into government proposals for a 'Green Deal' which by next October could offer loans to UK homeowners to improve the energy-efficiency of their property.

He said: 'I would certainly encourage people to come and have a look around. I am really impressed to see how a typical Norwich terraced house has been turned into a green home, without spending very large amounts of money. At a time when many are raising concerns about the cost of their own bills, some of the techniques on show will give people lots of ideas about how they can bring their costs down.'

The annual Open Days event is the fifth to have been organised by CPRE Norfolk in order to inspire people to save money on their fuel bills, generate their own cheap energy or reduce their carbon footprint.

Visitors will be able to find out about the benefits of draught-proofing, rainwater collection, solar panels, heat pumps and wood burners.

Roger Askham, of CPRE Norfolk, said: 'You don't always get a clear picture form the government or from installers as to what you can do, so it is helpful and inspirational to see what other people have done, and ask if it works.'

?All tours need to be booked in advance and will take place on the weekends of 17/18 and 24/25 September. For further information, visit