Throughout Europe, many homes have not been built to high energy efficiency standards. This keeps energy bills and carbon emissions high, and it contributes to energy poverty, lower levels of comfort for residents, poor indoor air quality, associated health problems, and higher property upkeep costs. Looking to help change how Europe approaches energy efficiency in new buildings is an innovative project called SMARTER Finance for Families, run by the Romania Green Building Council.
SMARTER Finance for Families is the only project from South-East Europe (SEE) to have reached the finals of the EU Sustainable Energy Awards, part of the EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW). The project is competing in the category of Leadership, as well as for the 2019 Citizens’ Award.
The project’s unique approach helps families reevaluate the way they view the cost of buying a home, switching from looking at the sale price alone to the ‘total monthly costs of ownership’ of the home which includes the benefits of energy efficient measures in the long run. To do this, the project works with banks and developers to certify green homes and create a financial product that rewards green building approaches, according to the EUSEW website.
Through the program, banks offer lower mortgage rates to green home buyers
“We created a green homes and green mortgage programme that connects the interest of banks, property developers, certifiers and home buyers. We verify that the residential projects will deliver the benefits of significantly greener and more energy efficient homes relative to standard homes, boosting the uptake of energy efficiency measures,” said project leader Steven Borncamp.
Through the program, banks offer lower mortgage rates to green home buyers. This allows home buyers to borrow more for energy efficient construction or renovation, while reducing the total cost of monthly ownership.
Supporting green construction
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 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.
SMARTER has also created simple models to explain the benefits of green homes to home buyers. They detail how people can reduce their monthly costs while also living in a healthier, more comfortable, energy efficient home.
Spreading success to other countries
By the beginning of 2019, the project had signed agreements with 25 investors to build more than 6,500 housing units in Romania meeting strict green standards. All the certified homes – ranging from low income housing to luxury – are at least 30% more energy efficient than the minimum score of an ‘A’ category of the Energy Performance Certificate for residential homes.
With the help of freshly-secured Horizon 2020 EU funding, the project is now planning its expansion into 11 other countries, including: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, as well as Georgia and Turkey.