Energy Efficient Buildings in the United States and Russia

Sep 23, 2021 09:32 AM ET

The world energy crisis of the 1970s led to the emergence of a new scientific and experimental direction in construction associated with the concept of "energy-efficient building." The purpose of this building’s construction is to identify the total effect of energy-saving from the use of architectural and engineering solutions aimed at saving energy resources. Over the past several decades, this efficiency concept has changed the way we utilize energy and has contributed to the development of a safer, more productive economy. However, the indications for these measures are being weakened at a time when we need to boost energy efficiency regulations and investments. Consequently, building projects in the U.S. and Russia are required to have a section entitled "energy efficiency" that summarizes the energy performance decisions related to a building design. The summary indicators should be compared with the standard indicators of the specific consumption of heat energy. While the U.S. demonstrates great results in terms of energy efficiency with approximately 25% savings on utility bills, Russia just recently adopted new regulations that fail to concentrate on utilizing more efficient energy to create a higher quality of life. 

In recent years, the U.S. has significantly increased the construction capacity of energy efficient buildings for various technological purposes. Moreover, the rules and regulatory documents for the design and assessment of energy efficient buildings have already been incorporated into international practice. In 2019, ACEEE reported that buildings consume 75% electricity and 40% of the total energy used in the U.S., accounting for 56% of carbon dioxide emissions. This makes buildings an essential target for energy savings as most of the energy used in homes goes towards conditioning the space, which is often more affected by the size of the house, rather than the number of residents. Also, heating, cooling, and lighting are the largest single energy end-uses in a home. Nevertheless, the U.S. was able to drive down energy consumption by approximately 25% per household by analysis and operations research. Defiantly, this is also the merit of professionals like Marina Gorbacheva, energy-efficient buildings design consultant at Design Pro Group Corporations. Her efforts to boost energy-efficient constructions help decrease costs in the U.S., stimulate the local economy, and generate more income to offer vital services. In 2020, the building efficiency market generated approximately 94.5 billion U.S. dollars in revenue, which is an increase compared with the previous 2 years. In addition to the energy savings, energy efficiency upgrades decrease operation and maintenance expenses, improve equipment life and performance, reduce production downtime, and increase employee comfort, safety, and productivity. Furthermore, statistics have shown that the U.S. significantly expanded the workforce by utilizing energy-saving solutions. For instance, California had the most energy efficiency jobs in the U.S. in 2020 with 283,839 employees. This was roughly 13.5 percent of all U.S. energy efficient jobs. 

In contrast to the U.S., the energy efficiency program of Russia's industrial sector is almost entirely missing and far behind other developed countries. The U.S. government took steps by implementing an energy passport audit and preparation and then subsequently approved a national energy management standard in accordance with ISO 50001. In contrast, current Russian law neither forces nor encourages enterprises to implement systems for energy management. Furthermore, the lack of long-term financial funding for small and medium-sized enterprises and the insufficiency of an energy services market also fail to boost energy efficiency for organizations. From the modern scientific perspective, the problem of designing energy-efficient buildings refers to the so-called problems of "system analysis" or issues of "operations research." The search for a solution is associated with the choice of an alternative that requires the analysis of complex information of a different physical nature. Regrettably, Russia cannot boast these accomplishments as 70% of the heat produced in Russia does not reach the consumer with 40% being lost during transmission and 30% going to the buildings. Thus, energy consumption in buildings could be reduced by two-thirds by cutting back on the heating of spaces and water. A good example is a project led by the World Bank in which 650 buildings in Cherepovets were renovated in the late 1990s. This showed that it was possible to reduce heat demand by 45%. 

The Federal Law on Energy Efficiency established requirements to update building codes on energy efficiency standards for new buildings at least once every five years. Currently, there are some constructions in Russia including an energy-efficient home in Moscow and a 'green house' built close to Moscow with low energy usage. Unfortunately, there are currently no buildings in Russia that consume zero energy. There is also a lack of statutory basis in this sector. The reason for this may be related to the greater cost of construction in comparison to the rest of Europe and the U.S. According to experts, construction costs can be two to three times higher, making it unprofitable at low electricity rates. As a result, construction companies that offer consumers energy-efficient buildings are higher quality buildings with slightly lower energy and water consumption. Hence, an energy-neutral housing construction from the U.S. experience would be very beneficial for Russia.

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