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Green building in Russia – can it put down roots?

Alexander Artyushin, the director of consultancy Profine’s construction division, talked to Stroitelstvo.ru about the prospects for green building in Russia.

 

What exactly is green construction, and how does it benefit the well-being of the population?

Green building is a component of sustainable development.

This includes not just green building, but everything that takes place around humankind. We can talk about green construction as a series of measures that includes eco-friendly building materials and utilities systems that function in harmony with the environment.

However, sustainable development doesn’t just involve protecting the environment in the here and now, it also means reducing threats to it in the future. By and large, green building technologies cover the whole construction cycle, from producing raw materials to operating the building without putting pressure on the environment or other people. And, of course, recycling waste products from running the building.

In other words, green building is an entire philosophy.

 

Very few buildings in Russia meet international green building standards – only a few dozen. Does green certification offer a competitive advantage?

For a country like Russia, a few dozen buildings is practically nothing. These houses are symbolic, nothing more than a demonstration of the possibilities.

All buildings that undergo this assessment are certified according to one of the three most common standards – LEED, BREEAM, or the Russian Zelenye Standarty (Green Standards). It’s worth pointing out that all three of these are voluntary.

This is useful in itself, but we need to get to the financial aspect. Green buildings cost at least 20% more, but seven or eight years later, when the building has paid for itself, the owner starts to feel the cost benefit. For example, energy efficiency alone improves by 35 to 40% - and this is before taking into account air quality, health and so on.

 

Why do so few developers and construction companies get green certification for their buildings?

Firstly, it’s not cheap. Developers generally plan for instant returns on investment, and a manager is judged on how they can cut costs now, in the design and building stage, rather than on cheaper running costs later on.

Green developers know full well that it costs more, so there are far fewer buildings put up with green technology.

However, there is a lot of choice in the certification process. If necessary, a building can be certified according to either the aforementioned international standards or the Russian Green Standards system.

 

Give some examples of energy-saving solutions in standard houses.

The green building market in Russia as a whole is not developed too much, but Moscow and St. Petersburg are exceptions – there are specific requirements for state-funded buildings. Everything built with state money there must meet certain rules.

For example, Moscow’s construction regulations contain a requirement that thermal energy consumption per square metre cannot exceed certain limits. Also, the minimum heat transfer resistance of windows much be at least 0.56 m2 ° C / W. And these requirements are increasing – figures of 0.7 – 0.8 are becoming the norm for some big Moscow housebuilders.

 

Russia’s Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities considers energy efficiency to be a foundation of the industry’s future development. Are there specific state programmes to support green building?

Ministry support is limited to statements at present, there has been nothing concrete just yet. But Russia’s Ministry of Environment, where eco-friendliness is a priority, are doing something in this area.

For example, the GOST R 54964-2012 construction standard, ‘Compliance assessment: environmental requirements for real estate’, was developed and introduced in close partnership with the Ministry of Environment. It applies requirements to projects when they are still in the design stage, and it clearly identifies goals for the safety of buildings and people, energy and water saving, and eco-friendliness. All these need to be taken into account in the design, construction and renovation stages. The only thing wrong with it is that it is also voluntary.

In construction regulations as they are now, there is nothing about being required to follow principles of green building and sustainable development. They say that buildings should be energy efficient, but nothing more.

At the end of last year another piece of regulation was passed regarding some standard or another, but yet again, not all of them were compulsory. The documents relating to green building were opt-in.

Because nobody is actually required to do anything, green building is down to the developers, including private companies – who are responsible for 47% of all housing built in Russia, according to the latest state data. It’s no surprise that the green building business in general focuses on these private developers.

 

Is there a future for green building materials in Russia?

I have some very interesting data from the Ecological Union of St. Petersburg, who carried out a survey asking the public whether they would use green building materials. 46% of respondents said they would use them if they were 10% more expensive that standard building materials, 19% would use them if they were 20% more expensive, and 7% of they were 30% dearer.

The building community is ready to offer these products to the consumer. In particular, construction companies are interested in Profine’s KBE and Trocal windows, certified by the Green Leaf programme – green certification helps us promote our products. Apartments with green certified PVC windows are also seeing increased demand.

This leads to the conclusion that Russian consumers understand these ideas – environmental protection, green building materials, comfortable living – in theory. And the necessary support from the Russian government would offer a clear boost.

 

 

An extract from Alexander Artyushin’s interview with RCMM.ru


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