Realities and prospects of sustainable private housing construction

In Russia, green construction started developing in the early 21st century thanks to the impact of global trends in sustainable development. In an important act, the country joined international agreements on reducing emissions and combating climate change. In 2017, Russia signed the Paris Accords, prompting intensified efforts in sustainable construction. The Russian Ministry of Construction began developing national standards and measures to encourage environmentally friendly and energy-efficient construction. Implementing green technology and standards is envisioned by the sustainable development strategies of several Russian regions. The number of green projects, supported by both state initiatives and private developers’ interest, has notably grown since 2020, which indicates that the Russian construction industry is gradually adopting the principles of green construction.

Russia’s green standards for private housing may be adopted as soon as Q2 2024, according to DOM.RF. After consideration by technical committees, the document will be submitted to the Russian Federal Agency for Technical Regulation (Rosstandart). Under these green standards, private housing projects will undergo eight evaluations using 46 criteria (26 mandatory and 20 optional).

While the Russian green standard is still in the approval phase, the construction industry relies on international standards, depending on the specifics of a particular housing community. EDGE is a standard by IFC (member of World Bank Group) that offers a free online calculator for energy and water efficiency and embodied energy in material. At the design stage, the standard helps with selecting the best solutions, materials and structures in order to reduce the negative impact on the environment. LEED for Neighborhood Development is more suitable for planning suburban communities with advanced infrastructure. WELL Community, a standard for housing communities and neighborhoods, focuses on health and wellbeing. Passive House is a German standard working well for buildings with outstanding energy efficiency. LEED for Homes is perfect for small houses, including houses made of wood (similar to the suburban America).

All these standards assess housing projects for energy efficiency and resource conservation, low environmental impact, water and air control, and residents’ comfort. These are the main principles of green construction.

Green construction goes beyond a mere checklist of criteria and standards; it embodies a comprehensive approach to the planning, construction, and operation of buildings and structures with minimal environmental impact. The advantages of green building extend to carbon footprint reduction, prioritizing both the wellbeing of residents and environmental impact, conservation of natural resources, and decreased operational expenses. In green construction, the selection of a site with a favorable environment, ample landscaping, and a satisfactory air quality index plays a crucial role.

Green construction architecture often exhibits minimalist features, emphasizing the importance of avoiding overconsumption and adhering to environmentally friendly principles. There is a consistent shift toward technological and eco-friendly minimalism. High-quality minimalist architecture, interiors, and landscapes revolve around advanced technology and contemporary materials. Minimalism, with its emphasis on eliminating unnecessary construction volumes, not only reduces the impact on the soil but also facilitates landscape preservation. In essence, minimalism serves as a foundational element in the realm of green construction.

In Russia, the emergence of consumer demand for green construction is in its early stages, with many customers instinctively opting for technological solutions. However, progress is impeded by a low level of awareness, a lack of comparative experience, and high costs stemming from the absence of mass demand. Developers can launch the first large-scale projects in individual housing construction if the state extends support, such as tax exemptions for several years, contingent upon the adherence to green criteria. As green construction continues to develop, customers will, in the next phase, vote with their rubles for the most effective solutions.

To promote green construction among the public, it is crucial to incorporate the fundamental principles of green construction into new state support programs for private housing development. Supporting developers in implementing such initiatives with subsidies is essential. To foster sustained demand from the population, it is necessary to cultivate a culture of green construction and engage in informational campaigns with potential buyers. Offering preferential ‘green’ mortgage programs could serve as a significant incentive in this regard.

By Sergei Stankevich, architect and developer, founder of StankevichDesign bureau and the DOMKO architectural brand

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