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.

Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

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