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OVERVIEW | SMARTER Finance for Families project

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The SMARTER Finance for Families H2020 project intends to replicate the success of the Green Homes/ Green Mortgages (GH/GM) programme initiated by the Romanian Green Building Council (RoGBC). By the beginning of 2019, the Romanian program had signed agreements with 25 investors to build more than 6,500 housing units in Romania meeting strict green standards. Since May 2019, Horizon 2020’s funding is supporting the programme’s expansion in 11 other countries including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, as well as Georgia and Turkey.

 

The project’s unique approach helps families re-evaluate the way they view the cost of buying a home; switching from looking at the sales price alone to the ‘total monthly costs of ownership’ of the home which includes the immediate and long-term financial benefits of energy efficient measures. To do this, the project works with banks and developers to certify green homes and create a financial product that rewards green building approaches. Through the programme, banks offer lower mortgage rates to green homebuyers. This allows homebuyers to borrow more for energy efficient construction or renovation, while reducing their total cost of monthly ownership.

 

A trademark of the SMARTER project is that residential projects eligible for “green” finance must excel in terms of energy efficiency and green energy but also meet non-energy green criteria. Homes that meet the project’s energy efficient standards are fitted with highly effective walls and roof and foundation insulation during the construction phase.  They must meet ahead of schedule the NZEB requirements scheduled for December 2020. In addition, they are built using non-toxic building materials, which have a positive impact on indoor air quality and human health, and they are located in well-designed districts that allow people easy access to public transport and amenities within walking distance. The implementation of the SMARTER programme will, in fact, represent a widespread implementation of the new EU Level(s) framework to improve the sustainability of buildings in different national contexts.

 

The existence or creation of a holistic residential certification scheme applicable in each implementing country was a pre-requisite of the project. For countries, including Czech Republic, Ireland and Italy, where the national Green Building Council is the project partner with a functional certification system this was the ‘natural’ choice to follow. Most of the other implementing countries chose to adopt the “Green Homes” certification scheme developed by RoGBC as an “open source” certification and piloted extensively, and have adapted it to the local context. In the case of Turkey, the green performance assurance and certification would refer to well established international green building rating tools such as BREEAM, LEED or GBC’s BEST.

 

A key element of the SMARTER’s green mortgages programme is the quality check of the certification systems that will be applying for the project. A solid verification system will ensure the quality of the data and metrics generated from the participating residential developments. As the project progresses, data emerging from the programme will be crucial for a number of areas:

 

  • The SMARTER programme will collect useful energy and financial data; including the risk of loan default for green versus non-green residential projects to provide feedback to financial institutions and other stakeholders. Project planning and construction phases data and emphasis on the later operation phase monitoring will provide useful information for reduction of environmental stress and financial risks while raising real estate values in a virtuous circle. These efforts will add to the effort to deliver comparable data by the EU Building Stock Observatory or ongoing, related projects (e.g. EEFIG, DEEP, EeMAP, and EEDAPP)
  • The project has studied the coherent use of CEN standards (that would improve the certification metrics and criteria that will be used for the project) and the possibilities of alignment of such certification schemes to the European Commission DG Environment’s Level(s) framework currently being piloted.
  • The project assessed, on a country-by-country basis, how the implementation of the EPBD directive is being transposed. This allowed the identification of the minimum requirements in terms of energy performance that will be applied by the SMARTER programme/system in each implementing partner country to qualify as a ‘green’ financial product.   While there are a variety of conditions in each country regarding construction codes and energy performance regulations, the consensus among the SMARTER project partners is that the program should use today the minimum NZEB requirements before they are required by December 2020 EU legislative deadline.

The national programs have been officially launched in each implementing country as of this month of January 2020. For their launch, SMARTER has created toolkits to explain the benefits of green homes to home buyers and will engage with residential project developers, financial institutions offering residential mortgages, and technical solution providers.   The project will be presented at the European Commission’s Covenant of Mayors Investment Forum Energy Efficiency Finance Market Place in February 2020 in Brussels.

 

Targeted homes range from low-income housing to luxury developments. For low-income housing, green quality and energy-performance standards improvement can mean a significant difference in terms of environmental impacts and financial resilience for families and government budgets.  With this objective, one of the project’s work packages is dedicated to the study of existing, successful energy poverty mitigation programs and planning for solutions, which combine public support with innovative, private green finance for the alleviation of energy poverty

 

Ultimately, the project intends to motivate and activate the entire green residential value chain and increase the demand for healthy and performant green homes.

 

For more information: SMARTER Finance for Families

 

The SMARTER Consortium is led by the Romania Green Building Council and includes Green Building Councils and other expert institutions from each of the implementing countries: Ireland, Italy, Greece, Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey, Slovakia, Ukraine and Georgia. The Consortium also includes research/advisory partners form Denmark (Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency ) and Belgium (Universite Libre de Bruxelles).