I’m sitting at the airport in Moscow, waiting for a connecting flight to St. Petersburg and I’m feeling incredibly excited. How did I get here? How did Michael, Janel and I get so lucky to find ourselves in Russia as part of our work at Green Building Alliance?
It all started last year when our fearless leader, Mike Schiller, was asked to travel to Russia with the State Department as part of a Peer to Peer Dialogue grant, to share green building experiences and lessons learned from Western Pennsylvania. Upon his return, we worked diligently to receive a grant that would allow us to build on Mike’s new relationships, and we were able to get Guy Eames (Russian Green Building Council) and Svetlana Koshkina (Russian Green Building Council) to visit us in Pittsburgh for a month, traveling along the east coast with GBA staffers and meeting with people like Bill McDonough and attending Greenbuild with us in Philly.
Finally, it was my turn to have some fun (I mean work very diligently to share GBA’s story with the world)! After several weeks of trip planning, I traveled to Russia with Michael Sobkowiak and Janel Everly so we could learn about the country’s growing green building movement, and so we could teach them about LEED, the Pittsburgh 2030 District, the Green & Healthy Schools Academy, and all the work that’s being done in our region. We had an awesome time and it was definitely worth all the work and hours we put in to make it happen. I’d like to share some of the journey with you, so below are just a few highlights from my travel journal…
April 2 – Wednesday
Today, we went to MosBuild, the largest building industry conference in Russia, with over 100,000 attendees, where Michael and I presented on Green Building Alliance, sustainability in western Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh 2030 District, and the Green & Healthy Schools Academy. It was a resounding success! We had over 50 people in the room and a lively Q&A session which was quite exciting. After the presentation we explored the show floor with thousands of exhibitors and products from roofing materials to fabrics.
April 3 – Thursday
Janel taught a LEED Green Associate prep course today for 35 students at CBRE’s office which is located in White Square. The students were engaged, asked a lot of questions and were able to follow along quite well. After the full day prep course a group of us, including myself, Michael, Guy, Svetlana, Janel, and a handful of students went to dinner at a Georgian restaurant. The dinner was excellent, but the company was even better! Everyone had such great conversation and it was nice to learn and understand the culture over dinner.
April 8 – Tuesday
Today, Michael and I spoke on a panel with Svetlana Koshkina from the Green Development Forum, Demitri Berezutsky of Greenstroi and Evgeny Pikul, director of Profstalproekt, about green building in Western Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh 2030 District, the Russian Green Building Council, and Russian green building technologies and products. We were given a tour of Nizhny Novgorod, their Kremlin, and the Volga River. We also took a cable car ride across the Volga (it was very high and long). We were escorted today by members of the state ecological bureau.
Tonight, we had dinner with Demitri, Evgeny, Vladimir, and two Igors from Nizhny Novgorod! They work in infill urban housing and they were very interested in talking about green building in their city. There is a huge need for housing updates here, so we talked a lot about the potential for residential projects.
April 10 – Thursday
Michael gave a presentation about green buildings in Pittsburgh and the U. S. to architecture students from Kazan State University of Architecture and Engineering with the Center of Competence of Green Technology in Construction. We fielded many questions on green building practices and the students were very curious. Later we met with Linar Yakupov and Pavel Hruska (with the Republic of Tatarstan’s Investment Development Agency). We learned about the project Kazan Smart City, a 560-hectare development, located 20 minutes from the center of Kazan and 15 minutes from the airport.
According to its website, “Kazan Smart City is a groundbreaking urban development project designed to spur the
growth of investment into high technology, medicine, education, and tourism. The project is being developed using the latest advancements in urban planning and engineering. Kazan Smart City will transform the Republic of Tatarstan’s capital of Kazan into a full-fledged international business hub with ideal conditions for working and living. A greenfield development project, Kazan Smart City is the first example of holistic urban planning according to smart city principles in all of Russia.”
It’s been great to see interesting green building activity going on all over Russia!
April 12 – Saturday
Night Train!! We are on the night train headed back to Moscow. Traveling by train is very common and we share a compartment with a young Russian woman on a business trip. The train is punctual, clean and comfortable. In the morning we scramble out of our beds and head off for a day at the Russian History Museum then off to the airport to Sochi.
April 13 – Sunday
We arrive in Sochi and after about 20 minutes and several failed attempts; we finally find our way out of the airport!
Apparently, part of growing so fast leads to procedural changes that are hard to figure out, even for the locals. We are joined on this leg of the journey by Yelena Yefremova from the U.S. State Department and our host is Mark Andeya who worked on the Sochi Olympics as part of the environmental team for the International Olympic Committee.
After a day of seeing all of the Olympic venues, the Olympic Village, a BREEAM certified hotel and a cable car ride to the top of the ski slopes, we enjoyed a nice dinner at a local restaurant featuring Georgian cuisine (Georgia is just on the other side of the Caucasus Mountains from Sochi). What a day!
I think I can speak for Michael and Janel when I say this was an amazing and educational journey. It gave us each a more global perspective and helped us appreciate all that’s been accomplished in our region over the past 20 years. The wonderful people we met in Russia are very interested in moving a green building agenda forward and they are working to make that happen. I’m excited to hear about their work moving forward, and I’ve already received some updates from people I met while there (Mark Andeya just emailed us to share that the Radisson Blu Resort in Sochi just achieved its BREEAM certification!). We’d like to thank everyone who was involved with making the trip possible, and those who hosted us along the way: Guy Eames, Svetlana Koshkina, Steve Mackey and Yelena Yefremova (U.S. State Department), Evgeny Pikul (Profstalproekt), Dimitri Berezutsky (Greenstroi), and Mark Andeya. Thanks also to our boss and our board of directors for letting us leave town for a while!