Taking part in this program is Guy Eames, an Englishman who was the co-founder of the Russia Green Building Council, and is the current chairman.
Guy describes how green buildings have developed over the past decade in Russia. He talks about the difficulties encountered in Russia when sustainable buildings were a new thing, and the only reason that developers wished to construct such buildings was because of the fact that foreign tenants demanded them. Now there are some 4 million square meters of ‘green’ space in commercial buildings around Russia, which demonstrates a massive growth, and a huge shift in attitude.
Guy explains: “Large companies and the government have realized that you can build buildings in Russia which are healthier, use lower energy and are high performance, I think that is the main achievement. ….We have a green building community of experts which is something to be proud of. In the beginning we were told that there is no need for green buildings, because energy is very cheap, and Russia has such an extreme climate. We have busted a lot of these myths and now we have municipal governments coming to us; they are very curious about green buildings and how they can incorporate their construction as part of their sustainability strategies.”
“The construction industry worldwide is very conservative, nobody wants to be first, and risk things….It goes beyond that, it makes sense economically, it make sense for the building occupants, it makes sense from an image point of view, it’s progress.”
Guy also pointed out some of the advantages of green buildings in general; such as a faster development time, so capital is locked up for a shorter period, …in Russia connection charges to electricity can be very expensive, and these charges can be reduced because the building may have its own autonomous electric supply. But planning must be done from a very early stage; “convincing developers to adopt a ‘green’ attitude in Russia was not easy at first.”
Guy says that this movement has started and will continue, but it needs to be pushed along as well. “We need to remind people that green buildings are about three things; about resources and efficiency, about caring for the environment and our environmental impact, as we are part of that environment, and the third element is comfort. Until recently that wasn’t such an important aspect for the owners. Now it is, people expect a much more comfortable world.”
As regards the drivers behind the green building movement in Russia, Guy says that the foreign influence has decreased. “The Gazprom Tower (Lakhta Center) is being certified to ‘Leeds’ standards, and we do see companies which you could say are international companies but they have almost become local; day-to-day names, people like IKEA, with their Mega Malls, they are a major driver, and many other companies are following their lead.”
Guy says that “green buildings have not been the Russian government’s main focus, but this year has been the ‘Year of the Environment’, and there has been a lot of focus on waste collection and separation of waste. I can see green buildings coming in the wake of that, as one of the next steps. We are supported by the Russian government, the Moscow City Government and the Ministry of Construction, we have now started working with the Moscow Construction University.”
The issue of compatibility between Russian construction standards and standards in other countries is discussed.
The gap between Russia and the rest of the world in terms of energy saving buildings is, according to Guy, being narrowed. “Over the last 8 years, a lot has been done, the base has been set to really move on to much greener buildings. The future is ‘zero energy buildings;’ buildings which generate a surplus of energy, and the world is now moving on to this standard, this is something for the future. In 10 or 20 years we will be living in a very different world and I am sure that Russia will play a central role in that.”
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