Innovations do not fit Russian construction. Why?

Innovations do not fit Russian construction. Why?
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The construction industry has been changing constantly. Are the Russian constructors ready to these innovations.

We have invited Sergei Zhuravlev, Head of projects of the Urban exploration center of the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management, member of the Public Council affiliated with the RF Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities, to comment on the innovations in the Russian constructions and future construction professions.


 — Mr Zhuravlev, recently the Atlas of New professions, including construction ones, was published. How does it meet the current economic demands?

— It rather offers orientation to the educational system. To my mind, competences diversity is so great and they change so rapidly that one should not focus on some definite professions or job titles.

In construction sphere companies will formulate stuff tasks for the nearest future themselves – that is why dozens of job titles will appear every year. Acquiring such new competences will be provided rather by training centers of companies and associations than by official educational institutions which are to give basic education.  


— Do you think, modern higher technical educational institutions are ready to teach the basics of innovation solutions?

— Students study innovation approaches comprehensively, and I see it, in  the Moscow State University of Civil Engineering, but I cannot say that higher education is able to meet business’s demands quickly.

About five years ago, the job title “Urban developer” was introduced in construction universities. Do you think that higher educational institutions have adjusted the educational process? No, they are still teaching architects.

The formal educational system is rather cumbersome and conservative. It takes years to develop methodology, to train professors, and the industry changes much quicker.  


— Why so, in the West universities are sources of innovations, and with us they try to catch up with the industry but do not, according to your words?

— Let us separate the educational process and innovation activity. Firstly, universities started innovation activity not so long ago.

Nevertheless, there is a marvelous “smart house” laboratory at the Moscow State University of Civil Engineering, they are trying to build and innovation camp to demonstrate modern technologies.  

I think that the Moscow State University of Civil Engineering is one of the best industrial educational institutions, and they have prospects. It takes time to form traditions, and the students’ curiosity will generate numerous innovations in good environment.


— How much on trend are the innovations in the Russian construction?  

— There are two factors. The first one is the high conservatism of construction. Well proved, trusted technologies are advantageous for both developers and customers. 

For example, a brick house is reliable and high quality from the majority’s viewpoint, though from the point of view of modern science and innovations – it is a throwback. The same goes for a log or bar-shaped house. In fact, as far as their energy efficiency is concerned, it is a relic of the past.

The second factor is the commitment to imported production quality as more reliable. Russian production is regarded as nondurable or non-efficient.

Since we are surviving the crisis, consumers are getting interested in domestic production and innovations. So if the rouble stays weak for at least three years our population will get accustomed to using domestic products.


— How easy is it to put new approaches to the construction of a modern house?

— Unfortunately, in Russia, the responsibility for the construction of an aparts house is diluted between legal entities, different inspecting structures, etc. So, to apply an innovation one will get tired to coordinate it. That is why it is easier to use proven solutions than to launch a new product to the market.

In Europe and America a decision on using an innovation is taken by an architect or an engineer, and backed up by patent protection. In Russia products catalogues, construction rules and regulations (SNiPs) and National State Standards (GOSTs) are introduced. Construction Ministry is eager to regulate prices manually. Not many innovation products can get through.

These restrictions prevent the innovation process from succeeding. And it is difficult for innovators to promote a new product to the market. Except low-rise construction. But if certification is introduced, there will be a catastrophe, and we shall again build brick and log houses instead of energy efficient and energy active modern buildings.


— To summarize our conversation, is the Atlas of new professions scientific fiction or reality?

— It is a stimulus for educational system to replace obsolete professions on the educational market. From the standpoint of the industry, it really does not matter, as business or customers are geared to technological solutions, not professions. And how to implement them on the market, that is a question.