China sees the need for a sustainable building. For the country, it’s not just an interesting idea, but a way to control energy usage in crowded and constantly expanding urban areas.
China is the world’s largest construction market, with half of the new buildings constructed annually worldwide are located in China. However, only 4 per cent of these buildings were constructed according to energy efficiency standards.
A national 3-star China National Green Building rating system has been launched in 2006 to implement sustainable building urgently. The Chinese green building revolution is relatively young. There are challenges that the country is dealing with, including low level of regulations and standards, problematic implementations at local level, lack of awareness and transparency in related public and private sector, lack of expertise of integrated sustainable building design and construction among engineers, designers and constructors, among others.
China also consumes one third of the world’s increasingly endangered water supplied for its building constructions. Recent study also showed that constructions eat up half of the country’s national energy. Moreover, a huge amount of these buildings need a sustainable redesign and retrofitting technologies.
The promotion of green construction will be one of China’s main priorities, in view of its 12th five-year plan. The country is placing greater emphasis on aggressive energy saving and environmental protection. Under this framework are the following areas of investment opportunities, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
Application of new energies and energy conservation solutions in architectural design;
Eco-friendly and energy efficient urban planning designs;
High quality and high technology green building materials;
Environmental protection technologies and products;
Engineering consultancy provides total energy conservation solutions;
Government Investment and Development Plans
Dongtan project which served as a flagship of the Chinese government was launched in 2005. The city is located outside Shanghai at the mouth of the Yangtze River. The design of the city consists of zero-energy buildings (ZEBs); a greenhouse gas neutral transport system; a self-sufficient water system; and a fully renewable energy system. Shanghai Industrial Investment Corporation (SIIC) and British engineering frm Arup has developed the project.
The Future of Green Building in China
Green building has grown in popularity in China since its recognition, with gold rating, by Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED). Still, sustainable buildings make up a small percentage in China’s construction market that is more interested in maximizing profits and lowering building costs, compromising sustainable design and energy efficiency considerations.
With increasing environmental awareness and central government policies, China is on the way to adopting more green building practices in the coming years—and reduce its overall energy use.
According to the PRC National Bureau of Statistics, developers in China have constructed 1.9 billion square meters of floor space and invested $983 billion in property development. Regulators in the country have focused on implementing green and energy efficient practices in both new and established buildings.
Current Challenges of Sustainable Building
Despite the LEED certification system used, the green building concept does not always make it to the Chinese market. Lack of understanding of green building and misaligned incentives are the prime reasons why the adoption of green building has slowed down.
Builders often base their construction decisions on short-term costs, such as material and labor cost, instead on energy efficiency or green building techniques which offer long term savings.
“A green building can pay for itself,” says Yingchu Qian, head of sustainability business in Asia for Faithful+Gould, a construction consulting firm.
Qian has worked on around 120 green building projects in China, and he says that the savings from energy efficient practices and the premium developers can charge for green buildings helps investors make back any additional money spent on construction.