National Energy Action Month – October 2014

What does the Persian Gulf War have to do with National Energy Action Month? Plenty as it turns out.

Oil Well Fires in Kuwait 1991The first Persian Gulf War was in its 3rd month in 1990 when President George H. W. Bush issued the first presidential proclamation declaring October as Energy Awareness Month, now called National Energy Action Month.

National Energy Action Month – Presidential Proclamations

In 2012, while researching a post about National Energy Action Month, I became intrigued by presidential proclamations for national this, that, and the other thing month. Proclamations provide tiny windows into the issues and policies of the time, past and present.

This year, I thought it would be fun and interesting to trace National Energy Action Month’s 25-year history through presidential proclamations.

President George H. W. Bush Initiates Energy Awareness Month


President George H. W. Bush initiated Energy Awareness Month by issuing a presidential proclamation on October 2, 1990.

“As current events in the Persian Gulf region have so forcefully reminded us, we must skillfully balance our determination to sustain economic growth; our need to use energy efficiently and to reduce this country’s dependence on oil; and our commitment to a safer, cleaner environment.”


For 1991 Energy Awareness Month, President Bush again emphasized the need to use energy efficiently, reduce our reliance on foreign oil, and develop domestic energy sources.


The 1992 proclamation highlighted President Bush’s National Energy Strategy which called for development of new technologies for oil and gas exploration, nuclear power, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and alternative fuels.

President Bill Clinton Carries on the Tradition of Energy Awareness Month

1993 Bill Clinton carried on the tradition of Energy Awareness Month with his 1993 proclamation themed “New Energy Choices for a Changing World.” It highlighted “green” computers, energy efficient appliances, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s new ENERGY STAR program.


The 1994 Energy Awareness Month proclamation referenced President Clinton’s “The Greening of the White House” initiative and stated the necessity of conserving resources for future generations.


In his 1995 proclamation, President Clinton alluded to three decades of disruptions in global oil markets and connected the word sustainable with energy policy.

For the next 13 years, the remainder President Clinton’s presidency and all through President George W. Bush’s time in office, Energy Awareness Month went dark.

President Barack Obama Brings Back Energy Awareness Month


In 2009, during his first year in office, President Barack Obama brought back Energy Awareness Month, this time as National Energy Awareness Month. His proclamation covered green jobs, policies to support clean energy, and introduced the term climate change.


The 2010 proclamation referred to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, new auto fuel-economy standards, and the Executive Order directing federal agencies to cut energy use.


President Obama switched things up with a new name in 2011, National Energy Action Month, but mostly rehashed what he had said in the previous year’s proclamation. This time, he called on Americans to take action by making cleaner energy choices.


America's All-of-the-Above Energy Strategy ImageIn his 2012 National Energy Action Month proclamation, President Obama refers to his now famous all-of-the-above energy strategy. He also announced that his administration had opened up millions of acres for domestic oil and natural gas exploration.


President Obama’s 2013 proclamation recounted U.S. accomplishments in oil exploration, renewable energy deployment, and new nuclear power plant construction. It acknowledged high gasoline prices, and stated the need to reduce oil imports and eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.


Natural Gas Drilling Rig on Pennsylvania FarmlandFor 2014 National Energy Action Month, President Obama touts his all-of-the-above energy strategy, states the U.S. is now the number one producer of natural gas in the world, and mentions how the Better Buildings Challenge is promoting energy efficiency in commercial buildings.

Interestingly, although the presidential proclamations above span more than two decades and exhibit varying rhetoric, they share some common ground: energy security, domestic energy development, energy efficiency, and balancing these with the economy and environment. Over the years, new terms were introduced such as green, sustainable, clean energy, low-carbon, and climate change. All the proclamations call on Americans to work together to secure our energy future.

National Energy Action Month – Take Action

One of the things I like about national months is that they provide a time frame for us collectively focus on something specific and take action. A previous post, Energy Empowerment – October is National Energy Action Month, offers some practical and perhaps fun ideas on actions anyone can take for National Energy Acton Month.

Last year we combined National Energy Action Month with Halloween and tackled our household energy vampires.

Blue Water Drop with RipplesThis year, since we live in drought-stricken California, we are concentrating on the connection between energy and water. For instance, by reducing our hot water use we also reduce our natural gas (fossil fuel) use. We do this by taking fewer and shorter showers, doing only full loads of laundry, and washing dishes in the dishwasher instead of by hand.

Share what you are doing for National Energy Action Month.

Reader Note: click on a year link above (e.g. 1990) to read the presidential proclamation for that year.

Related Posts


Zugunruhe – Book Review

Zugunruhe Book CoverSelf-discovery meets green building in Zugunruhe: The Inner Migration to Profound Environmental Change, by Jason F. McLennan, written with Mary Adam Thomas. It’s an odd combination but it works.

I came across Zugunruhe during the 2013 Bioneers Conference. The book was sitting on a table set up to showcase books by the keynote speakers, which included McLennan. Earlier in the day, I’d watched his Living Buildings and a Regenerative World presentation. I’m a green building fan and was intrigued by the concept of living buildings so I bought the book.

Book Review

Zugunruhe is a German word pronounced (zoo gen ROO ha) meaning “migratory restlessness” which describes the behavioral changes many animals go through prior to migration.

Part self-help guide and part green building treatise, Zugunruhe calls to the green warrior in each of us.

McLennan weaves stories from his own life and others into the lessons in the book. He gives a lot of advice without sounding preachy or authoritative. Sometimes his ideas fly in the face of convention or put a different spin on a well-known word or concept.

  • In today’s world of specialization, we need more polymaths, people with broad and diverse knowledge.
  • Failure is something to look forward to.
  • Forgiveness should happen prior to transgression.
  • Conflict is good.
  • A true warrior uses restraint and diplomacy first, and only fights as a last resort.

Zugunruhe contains highlights from McLennan’s experiences as an architect in the green building movement.

Readers will explore the difference between “not failing” and succeeding through the lens of the building industry, discover the design knowledge rose, and get a glimpse of the Living Building Challenge.

McLennan defines a living building as one that functions as elegantly and efficiently as a flower; generates its own power, captures, treats, and recycles water, operates pollution-free with no toxic chemicals, and is beautiful.

Imagine living in a world where living buildings are the norm and people flourish alongside nature.

The Bottom Line

Jason F. McLennan is an architect, CEO of Cascadia Green Building Council, and founder of the Living Building Challenge, an international green building program. Mary Adam Thomas is a writer with a commitment to environmental issues.

When I read the sentence, “This book is not about guilt.” on page 28, I knew I was going to enjoy it, and I did.

McLennan and Thomas’ style of writing are conversational and thought-provoking. I often found myself pausing to listen to my own inner dialogue or laughing over messages that could have been written specifically for me such as the drawbacks of being a perfectionist or too process-driven.

Many of the green building segments make sense in the context of the chapters, but others seem like marketing plugs promoting the Living Building Challenge or McLennan himself; however, rather than detracting from the book it makes it more like a real journey with twists and turns, side trips, and dead ends.

On the surface, Zugunruhe may seem like a book for treehuggers and green building professionals, but it pertains to personal transformation of any kind. I recommend it to anyone interested in making a change in her or his life and willing to do the work to change.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

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2014 Sochi Olympics – Green Building

“One of the greatest Legacies of the Sochi 2014 Games will be the introduction of world class ‘Green’ Building practices to Russia.”

— Dmitry Chernyshenko, President and CEO, Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee 1

Arguably, no other development and construction project in the world attracts as much attention as the one undertaken by an Olympic Games host city.

Sochi Olympic Coastal Cluster During Construction in 2012 - Photo: Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee

Putting on the Olympic Games is an enormous multi-year undertaking involving intricate and complex logistics, billions of dollars, a myriad of stakeholders with conflicting interests, constructing a city within a city, and hosting more than a hundred thousand visitors from all over the world.

In between watching as many Olympic events as possible and learning the rules for curling, I took to the Web to find out about the evolution of green building in Russia during the Sochi Olympics.

Sochi Olympics – Built Environment Overview

Sochi is a Russian city of about 340,000 residents situated on the Black Sea near the Caucasus Mountains. Olympic events took place at two locations aptly named the coastal and mountain clusters. Each cluster had Olympic Venues, an Olympic Village, a Media Center, hotel accommodations, and a transportation hub.

The coastal cluster lies in the Imeretinskaya lowland between the Mzymta and Psou rivers. It is home to Olympic Park, Olympic Stadium, and the ice venues.

Alpine Resort at Rosa Khutor - Photo: Sochi 2014 Organizing CommitteeAlpine and extreme skiing events took place 48 kilometers (30 miles) away at the mountain cluster in Krasnaya Polyana which is connected to Olympic Park via a new highway and rail system.

After the Olympic Games are over, the Russian Federation hopes Sochi will become an international year-round vacation destination and attract world-class sporting events.

Sochi Olympics – Green Building

Ever since environment became the 3rd pillar of Olympism in 1994 3, the “green” bar has been raised higher for each Olympics.

For the 2014 Olympics, much of Sochi’s infrastructure was overhauled or built from scratch. The new state-of-the-art equipment and systems installed for power, water, waste, telecommunications, and transportation were critical to putting on the Games and will benefit Sochi residents and businesses for years to come.

Adler Skating Arena - Photo Sochi: 2014 Organizing CommitteeWinter Olympic venues involve a lot of ice and snow. Big slabs of ice inside buildings must be kept frozen without freezing the audience. Outdoor events require icy tracks and groomed snow courses. Each venue must be built to meet the specifications of international federations that oversee each sport as well as IOC requirements.

At the time construction got underway, a Russian green building rating system did not exist.

The Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee and government-owned State Corporation Olympstroy, tasked with overseeing construction, looked to existing green building rating systems to help them deliver on environmental and sustainability requirements.

The most widely used green building rating systems are the U.S. based LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and U.K. based BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). Guidelines and features of both systems were incorporated into some projects, and 9 venues were selected to pursue BREEAM certification.

Below are some of the green building techniques and features utilized in many of the venues including those not pursuing BREEAM certification.

Energy Modeling

Energy modeling enabled project teams to estimate how a building would perform so they could make changes to improve energy efficiency early in the project. This is a requirement for BREEAM certification.

Energy Efficiency
  • High level of thermal insulation, double facades, and special window glazing
  • Solar power and water heating
  • Efficient HVAC, ice chilling, and other equipment
Water Efficiency
  • Infrared sensors on faucets and urinals, dual flush toilets
  • Functional area water meters and leak detection systems
  • Rainwater and greywater used for irrigation, fire protection, circulation cooling, and toilet flushing

Bolshoy Ice Dome Showing Canadian Flag with Colored LEDs - Photo: cotsonikaFluorescent and LED lighting, motion sensors, and lighting zones ensure adequate lighting levels are maintained while reducing electricity use. LED’s blow fluorescent bulbs away with their high efficiency, extremely long life, and ability to create cool lighting effects, like on the Bolshoy Ice Dome that is shown in the photo above.

Automated Building System

Automated building systems monitor, control, and adjust engineering systems including ventilation, air conditioning, heating, cooling, fire protection, electrical supply, and lighting. This ensures buildings operate efficiently. Human operators receive reports and alerts enabling them to resolve issues before they become big problems.


Commissioning is the process of confirming a completed building operates as planned. Changes or mistakes made during construction can alter the way materials, structures, or systems work. Problems identified during commissioning are corrected to ensure the building functions efficiently and effectively over its lifetime. This is a requirement for BREEAM certification.

BREEAM Certified Olympic Venues

As of this writing, 7 of the 9 venues pursuing BREEAM certification had achieved certification. The Mountain Media Sub-Centre and Swissôtel & Resort at Rosa Khutor are the two pending certifications.

  • Adler Arena Skating Center – the speed skating venue will be converted into a trade and exhibition center after the Games.
  • Bolshoy Ice Dome – flexible features built into the ice hockey arena enable it to function as a multi-purpose sports, concert, and entertainment center.
  • Endurance Village Cottages – 28 chalet-style residences for cross-country and biathlon Olympic athletes will become vacation rentals after the Games.
  • Mountain Media Sub-Centre – the 5-floor media center will morph into an exhibition hall and house the Museum of Olympic Glory.
  • Olympic Park Railway Station – new transportation hub integrated into the main entrance of Olympic Park.
  • Radisson Blu Resort & Congress Center – 500-room, 5-star hotel that served as the IOC hotel during the Games.
  • Russian International Olympic University  – includes lecture and office facilities, a conference center, and hotel accommodations.
  • Sochi 2014 Headquarters – 9-story Class A office building used as the home of the 2014 Sochi Organizing Committee during the Olympics.
  • Swissôtel & Resort at Rosa Khutor – 157-room, 5-star hotel located in the mountain cluster.

Green Building Legacy

After working independently for a period of time, working groups led by the Russian Federation Ministry of Natural Resources and Olympstroy joined forces to harmonize standards and develop a voluntary green building rating system based on Russian national construction norms and regulations.

The resulting green building standard incorporates 8 groups of criteria, for which points can be earned for certification as follows:

  1. Site Selection, Infrastructure, and Design of Surrounding Territory – 80 credits
  2. Sochi 2014 HQ Office Building with Solar Water Heating on Roof - Photo: Sochi 2014 Organizing CommitteeDesign Planning and Construction Solutions – 100 credits
  3. Environmental Management – 70 credits
  4. Energy Efficiency – 70 credits
  5. Water Efficiency and Stormwater Management – 40 credits
  6. Materials and Waste Management – 80 credits
  7. Comfort and Environment of Interior – 60 credits
  8. Safety of Daily Activities – 30 credits

Development of the voluntary green building standards led to the first national Russian green building standard, “setting requirements for environmental effectiveness on venue properties”, which was implemented via decree by the Russian Federation Government. 2

Green building has come to Russia. Cool.

Related Posts


  1. Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee – Green Building Standards Implementation Report, June 2010, prepared by Russian Green Building Council
  2. Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee – Sochi 2014: Legacy Report, January 2014
  3. International Olympic Committee – Sustainability Through Sports


Other Resources

Not everything ran smoothly during construction for the Sochi Olympics. Click links below to read a few articles related to environmental issues.