Green Building: Putting Sustainable Development Into Practice

Guy Eames is chairman of the Russian Green Building Council (RUGBC), director of Planet 2030, and a master of climate change and sustainable development. For the past ten of his 30 years of working in Russia, he’s been striving to spread the green building cause, and his efforts have yielded results. In an open lecture at ITMO University’s Institute of Design & Urban Studies, the expert talked about how the international green building standards LEED and BREEAM are being implemented in Russia, what local objects tick the green building box, and how the eco-construction field has changed in the past ten years.

Sustainable development and eco-construction are interconnected. Green standards are needed for constructing buildings that are more eco-friendly. While ten years ago eco-construction in Russia was something that was laughed about, now there is a multi-professional community strongly driven by the green building cause.

Also known as green building, eco-construction is a form of construction and utilization of buildings that have a minimal impact on the environment. In today’s Western Europe, the construction industry accounts for 40% of landfill waste. Faced with the unsolved transport question, continuous exhaustion of non-renewable resources, population growth (especially significant in developing countries), and overconsumption of energy, people started thinking about making their lifestyles more eco-friendly.

The 1970’s oil crisis gave a major impetus to that change. (The Soviet Union wasn’t part of it as the country didn’t have a market economy.) It is this day of reckoning that pushed people onto the path of sustainable development, as they began to ponder the solution for the transportation problem and opened their eyes to the importance of recycling, rational consumption of water and others. But despite this, we still live in the world where there is a serious imbalance in social, ecological and economic capital and resources are squandered left right and center.

When the Russian Green Building Council was just starting out, it was decided that green building would be referred to as eco-construction because this first notion had somewhat of a baggage. Green building existed in the USSR, but more in the form of landscaping solutions. The experts also determined the three criteria of eco-construction.

The first is resource-effective construction. Resource effectiveness encompasses all resources used for the construction and management of a building, time included. If an object is built in three to five years, it can’t be considered resource-effective.

The second is ecologically safe construction. This criterion incorporates everything related to the ecology of a house, thus being a very complex notion that includes not only interior space (good-quality ventilation, comfortable humidity and temperature levels), but also the materials that the house was built from (as each material implies a certain ecological footprint) and the impact its construction had on the chosen territory (as the harm made to the ecosystem of the place can be calculated).

The third criterion is maximal comfort for residents. Each building should perform the functions it was assigned; for example, hospitals should have appropriate acoustics, air conditioning and other parameters crucial for maintaining human health.

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