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Singapore launches green financing for buildings

Singapore’s building authority has launched a pilot green financing scheme that enables building owners to get bank loans of up to S$5 million to retrofit their building to a greener standard.

The government will also be amending its building laws to legally require building owners who do such retrofits to comply with a minimum certification.

Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin announced these initiatives on Wednesday at the opening of the International Green Building Conference (IGBC).

Singapore is “one of the first few countries in the world which mandates energy efficiency standards for existing buildings,” he told the conference. While the upfront cost of meeting higher standards may be higher, the energy savings after the retrofit will eventually pay for the cost, he said.

“Building owners can reduce their energy bills and do their part for the environment at the same time,” he added.

Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA) will also be consulting the industry on the proposed changes to legislation, which will see buildings retrofitted to meet the minimum Green Mark standard. In addition, BCA will require the owners to conduct audits on their building cooling systems once every three years.

Launched in 2005, the Green Mark scheme is BCA’s flagship rating system that assesses buildings in the tropical climate for their environmental impact and performance.

BCA’s new financing initiative, called the Building Retrofit Energy Efficiency Financing (BREEF) scheme, has two partners - United Overseas Bank and Standard Chartered - which will disburse 15 loans over two years to commercial building owners, condominium managements and energy services companies.

The interest rate is set by the banks at a minimum rate of 3.5 per cent and the loan tenure ranges from one-and-a-half years to seven years. BCA will share the risk of any loan defaults with the financial institutions.

Lam Kum Weng, Head of Medium Enterprise, Standard Chartered Bank, said the bank was pleased to embark on this “landmark financing scheme” with BCA.

“We are glad to be able to support the segment of customers and buildings to fund the cost of making buildings energy efficient. The reduction in electricity bills and costs savings will be substantial and we foresee this will be a major breakthrough for the industry,” he said.

President of the Singapore Green Building Council, Tai Lee Siang, said the scheme would be a boon to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) particularly, as these companies typically do not have big credit facilities to carry out costly retrofits.

This funding reflects real commitment by policymakers to green the Republic’s existing buildings, he added.

Minister of State BG Tan also noted in his opening speech that the world will focus on the United Nations climate change talks due in Durban in less than three months.

“The negotiators will have a challenging time… we firmly believe that climate change mitigation is a shared responsibility, and a collective effort,” he said. The IGBC is a useful platform for those in the building sector from various countries to “come together to network, learn and share ideas.”

The conference is part of the Singapore Green Building Week organised by BCA, now in its third year. The three-day summit at Suntec City gathers policymakers, businesses and experts to discuss green building related topics.

Eco-Business.com’s coverage of the International Green Building Conference 2011 is brought to you by City Developments Limited.

For other news from Singapore Green Building Week, including the International Green Building Conference 2011 and Bex Asia 2011, click here.

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