This article was originally published in the November/December 1996 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.


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Home Energy Magazine Online November/December 1996


Moscow Code Aims to Halve Building Energy Use

New and retrofitted buildings in Moscow have had to comply with a municipal Code of Energy Efficiency Standards since 1994. The Code-compliant buildings pictured here are among the 30 million square feet of new housing currently under construction.

When the Iron Curtain opened in 1989, Westerners were shocked by the poor building performance in formerly Communist countries. In Russia, energy-efficient lamps were unknown, and building residents controlled the temperature of their flats by opening and closing windows, even in the winter (see Home Energy Use in Moscow, HE May/June '92, p. 40). Today, things are slowly starting to change. Since August 1994, Moscow has had a mandatory municipal energy code for new and retrofitted buildings. The code is intended to spur the market for energy-efficient walls, windows, and prefabricated buildings while saving occupants money. To encourage compliance, the code's developers came up with the Energy Passport program, an innovative energy rating and certification program that may soon be imported to the United States.

The energy code aims to reduce the energy use of affected buildings by 40%. The next strengthening of the code will take place in 1998 and will aim for a 50% reduction below 1993 levels. It accomplishes these reductions with a combination of strict energy use goals and more complex comfort and insulation requirements. The code sets a target for heating energy consumption of 87 kBtu/ft2 per year for high rise multifamily buildings and 127 kBtu/ft2 per year for low rise residences. In contrast, existing U.S. residences average 35 kBtu/ft2. The efficiency improvements are especially necessary with Russia's energy situation. Residential heat and electricity were subsidized during the Soviet years, making insulated buildings the exception and leaving builders with little knowledge of efficient construction. Heat subsidies still constitute a crushing burden for regional government budgets.

Encouraged to Exceed The code implements an energy certification and rating system called the Energy Passport. This building energy certificate is named for the personal identification card, or passport, that Russians carry from birth to death. The Passport records a building's energy ratings; potential renters and buyers can use it to get an idea of what sort of performance to expect. It exists to integrate code compliance, inspection and maintenance, and market incentives.

The Energy Passport starts recording a building's efficiency before it is built. In the design stage, plans are analyzed by simulation programs to determine whether the building is likely to meet target energy use levels. During construction and commissioning, the building is inspected to ensure that conservation measures are implemented. Once it is built, performance tests confirm that energy use targets are being met or exceeded. All approvals, inspection results, and monitored data go on the Passport.

Buildings certified as having energy conservation measures gain economic support, such as favorable taxation and loans, from the municipal government and lending institutions. In addition, buildings that exceed target efficiency levels will soon be able to use their Energy Passports to receive lower heat tariffs. Thus, in Moscow, a building that is 20% more efficient than code requirements qualifies the owner for a lower utility rate; a building that exceeds requirements by 35% wins an even greater reduction.

The code is saving money in other ways. For example, insulated concrete forms and prefabricated foam-faced concrete panels cost about half as much as uninsulated clay-cement walls. The code is speeding the penetration of the more efficient materials into a stubborn marketplace. Also, designs submitted for approval must be supplemented with a maintenance plan for the structural and mechanical systems, and with an economic comparison of alternative designs. The buildings that end up being constructed are the ones that both save energy and cost less to maintain.

Houses that exceed energy standards under the Moscow energy code will qualify for lower utility rates.
Getting Results The code's developers were concerned that builders would meet the energy consumption goals at the expense of comfort, so they included minimum comfort requirements. The code also prescribes specific levels of insulation. Walls must be at least R-12, unless they are made of lightweight concrete or brick, in which case they can be as low as R-7. Attics must be R-20 or more, and basement ceilings must be R-14. Windows must be at most U-0.32 (at least R-3.1) unless they have low-e coatings. Fenestration area must not exceed 15% of the total facade. Compared to U.S. standards, where R-38 attics are the norm in cold climates, the insulation standards may not seem like much. Still, they are twice as strict as Russia's national building code.

Design institutes in Moscow are now using the code when they design new houses, schools, and nurseries, and are also adjusting older designs to the new requirements. Two of the four prefabricated building factories in Moscow have started to produce code-compliant residences. Two prefabricated multifamily highrises and several pre-fab single-family homes have been designed, commissioned, and erected according to code. One plant that builds pre-fab wall panels, floors, and roofs now builds entirely according to code. This plant has produced about one third of newly erected buildings in Moscow in the past year.

Code implementation began with the design of demonstration buildings. The first residential demonstration was erected in spring 1995. During fall and winter 1995, this building was conserving about 240 million Btu per year. Soon, design firms began to correct the design of typical Moscow buildings. Total conservation from compliant buildings built so far is about 450 billion Btu per heating season. When all new buildings are in compliance with the code, the total effect will be between 1.4 and 2 trillion Btu per year (depending on the severity of the winter). Buildings are going up fast in Moscow-by the end of 1996, the Administration of Moscow plans to erect more than 30 million ft2 of residential space while demolishing about 10 million ft2 of old houses.

The Institute for Market Transformation, an American nonprofit organization whose specialists have provided technical assistance in developing this code, has received a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to import the Energy Passport concept to the United States. The institute hopes that a lifelong report of building energy information will be useful for building owners and utilities in ensuring the ongoing efficient performance of commercial buildings.

-Yurij Alexeevich Matrosov
and Igor Nikitovich Butovsky
Yurij Alexeevich Matrosov is head of the Research Laboratory for Microclimate and Energy Conservation in Buildings at the Research Institute for Building Physics (NIISF) in Moscow, and is the lead researcher at the Center for Energy Efficiency, a joint Russian-U.S. company that promotes energy efficiency in Moscow. Igor Nikitovich Butovsky is head of the Research Laboratory for Energy Efficient Envelope Constructions at NIISF.


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