July 3, 2012, early pm, Moscow, Russia: as I write this, I am at a building supply company in the middle of a meeting of players in the green building industry including Guy Eames, CEO and Co-Founder of the Russian Green Building Council (RuGBC – http://www.rugbc.org/en ). As of 4pm, I’m now in a conference room of about 90 attendees at business summit in a tsarist palace, and once again, the theme of ecologically-friendly building and green standards is at least getting lip service.
How substantive and sustainable is the green building movement here? RuGBC revenue doubled from its first to its second full year of operations (from 2010 to 2011). While AIG originally suggested the formation of RuGBC (apparently as a way to enhance the long-term value of its real estate investments here) and the impetus for adopting green building is to some extent based on the corporate policies of foreign companies and investors, there is clearly some nascent, local demand for progress in building standards. Notwithstanding widespread perceptions that interests in the oil and gas and mining industries will never tolerate progress in the arena of sustainability, those with whom I’ve spoken today state that there is both market demand and government support for adopting greener construction standards. Though the terms green building and sustainability may not be used a lot (or perhaps at all, or with a smirk in some circles in which I’ve broached the topic), the term “energy efficiency technology” has currency and credibility. If I had not reviewed and discussed the finances and annual activities report of RuGBC and seen the products of the building supply company (including solar panels, a windmill, skylights, and appliance control technologies) I might be more skeptical and cynical about the words I’m hearing. After today, I’m looking forward to seeing how the green building movement develops here: will it amount to the modern equivalent of a Potemkin village or a substantive shift in standards?