Aside from introducing the word “Sochi” into our everyday vocabulary, the 2014 Winter Olympics have served as a catalyst to introduce Russia to the concept of sustainability, including implementation of the country’s first national standards for sustainable construction.
The Olympic venues and facilities that were built in advance of the games utilized modern environmental standards and protocol, and the process marked a change in the way construction projects are initiated in the country. In cooperation with BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environment Assessment Method), the new standards promoted a focus on reducing energy expenditures, recycling and reusing waste and using green building materials in all new construction.
Russia’s adoption of these new policies isn’t a coincidence. The International Olympic Committee encourages the adoption of sustainable development ahead of the games. In fact, since the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, the environment was named the third dimension of “Olympism,” along with sport and culture, by the International Olympic Committee. And since then, host cities haven’t disappointed. At the Summer 2012 Games in London, once the games were over, pieces of the Aquatics Center were removed and recycled in other construction projects. At the last Winter Games in Vancouver, the Olympic and Paralympic Village used methane gas from an old landfill for energy and its primary heat source came from heat recovered from the city wastewater treatment plant.
Fortunately, the green movement in and around Sochi won’t decline once the Olympic flame has been extinguished. With the help of the United Nations Environmental Programme, game organizers will work for the next 16 years to restore the area where Olympic construction took place, including the Mzymta River Basin and its unique ecosystem.
In addition to green building developments, the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee recognized several organizations and companies for their achievements in social, environmental and economic development and sustainability. These projects (read more about these projects here) include low-emission energy sources, water efficiency solutions and innovative waste management systems.
The changes to the rules and regulations governing the creation of infrastructure in Russia will be one of the legacies the Olympics leave behind. By employing environmentalists and ecologists to create sustainable living and work spaces, and by introducing eco-friendly building standards, the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics leave a green footprint on a country new to these efforts.
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