By Julian Wong Apr.8.2008
In: green buildings, urban planning, wind

China’s Construction Boom/Doom

Anyone who has recently been to any sizeable Chinese city can attest that the pace of building construction in China is simply astounding. By some accounts, China is adding some 2 billion square meters of construction area per year, accounting for nearly half the world’s total. These superlative statistics coincide with the largest scale of rural-to-urban migration in human history being experienced in China (we’ve talked about this phenomena previously here and here).

Construction boom? Perhaps more like construction doom! By some metrics, buildings are the biggest culprits of greenhouse gas emissions in our environment. Just think of all the kinds of basic materials that goes into a building—glass, steel, cement, paint—the manufacture, processing and transportation of which are energy and water-intensive. And that’s just in the construction phase. Once the building is in use, think of heating, cooling, lighting and mobility (escalators and lifts) needs! All that energy use implies the burning of massive amounts of fossil fuels and emissions of carbon.

Who will save China now?

Enter the Dragon. The Green Dragon Media Project, that is. The Green Dragon Media Project web portal is an in-depth online multimedia project that provides an analytical framework to understanding the forces at play in the Chinese construction industry, and what can be done to introduce best practices in green building design to China. The portal, a compendium to a 35-minute film on greening the Chinese construction industry (below’s a teaser!), presents a remarkable collection of video interview clips, and explores in quite a bit of detail the incentives and disincentives facing the construction industry, government, legal system, and the public with respect to residential and commercial development.

One recurring observation throughout the portal is the disjunct between the edicts of the central government and the level of enforcement of such edicts at the provincial, municipal and local levels. This has spurred the GDMP team to create, for their next film project, and instructional film on green buildings specifically targeting provincial mayors. Because much of the local economic development agenda is determined at the provincial level, educating and informing local leadership must be seen as an effective lever to effecting a green shift.

Among the things that should be pitched to the mayors is the economic benefits that will stem from a range of green jobs and technologies related to energy efficiency (roofing, insulation, advanced heating and cooling systems), water efficiency (efficient plumbing, micro-irrigation) and sustainable building materials (recycled carpeting, eco-friendly paints, sustainable timber).

Here at The Green Leap Forward, we’ll track the companies and technologies that are making this green construction revolution happen. One Beijing-based startup seeking to make its mark in the green building industry is Qidi Daring Energy Technology Co. Qidi provides comprehensive consulting services, providing advisory services on all aspects of the green building life cycle, including green building design, energy efficiency, energy audits, indoor air quality, and on green building standards such as the U.S. LEED system and China’s green building evaluation standards.

I end this post with one thought—there is too much talk about green buildings that leave out the bigger picture of smart urban design. A building, after all exists within the context of a neighborhood, town or a city. What’s the point of a construction boom in green buildings if no thought is given to curbing sprawl, promoting the use of mass urban transit, or maintaining a certain amount of green space? It is said that the greenest building is the one never built. Obviously that is not practical, so the question is how can we deploy the greenest technologies and methods not only build our buildings, but also arrange and structure them amongst other buildings and urban structures to create a holistically sustainable built environment?

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  1. Illusions of Reform and the Need for Integrated Governance « The Green Leap Forward 绿跃进 Apr.18.2008@2:21 pm Reply

    [...] (power production, cement, steel, etc.) and what better lever point is there than scrutinizing the construction industry?  Buildings and their fixtures are made of or consume just about every industrial resource [...]

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