Green building in Russia

The modern green building movement has only just begun to take root in Russia. In fact, until now and the start of the RUGBC, Russia is the last major developed economy to organize a green building council.

On paper, Russia has long required that its buildings be designed and constructed in accordance with strict energy efficiency and environmental protection codes and regulations. The reality, however, is quite different. Decades of state energy price supports and an abundance of natural resources and raw materials combined with non-uniform enforcement of building codes together with low public awareness have resulted in an overall built environment that is significantly less energy efficient, less competitive, less healthy and more environmentally damaging than in most industrialized economies.

Despite this, current economic and political dynamics suggest that a landscape more favourable to green building is starting to take shape.

  • Today’s economic turmoil makes it imperative for building owners and developers who are determined to maintain their competitive edge to look for effective ways to cut costs and improve quality.
  • As developed countries get closer to undertaking commitments to reduce their carbon emissions reductions as part of the post-Kyoto international climate treaty, the Russian government has already made it clear that it views dramatically improved building energy efficiency as playing a leading role in helping it to fulfil its expected treaty obligations.
  • President Medvedev has acknowledged that Russia’s per capita consumption of energy (“energy intensity”) is more than 3 times that of the EU and 2 times that of the US and has committed Russia to improving its energy efficiency by 40% by 2020.
  • Russia’s longer-term plans of diversifying and making more productive its economy along with increasing its oil and gas export revenues and freeing energy prices on the domestic market make it very likely that building energy costs (in terms of connection and usage charges) will rise sharply in the coming years.
  • Russian policymakers are beginning to question the increasing economic, social and environmental toll caused by Russia’s inefficient, resource intensive, increasingly obsolete building stock.

It is in this context that a growing number of experts in Russia now see green building as an effective and cost efficient long-term solution. This important shift is manifested in several recent positive developments:

  • Interest in and awareness of green building and its many benefits have steadily risen in Russia as evidenced by the surprising number of successful local green building conferences, forums and seminars.
  • As interest and awareness have grown, there has been a proportional increase in the availability of energy efficient and environmentally friendly building materials and technologies on the local market.
  • There has been an encouraging and corresponding rise in the number of announced green building projects, including several very large, mixed-use urban developments in or near Moscow that will be designed, constructed and operated in compliance with major international green building rating systems.

All indications are, therefore, that the emergence of a sustained green building movement in Russia is at hand.