Green Buildings Take off in China

Lin Borong, Tsinghua University, Angela Li, EMSI, and Xu Xiaowei, Shenzhen Institute of Building Research, discussed how green buildings are taking off in China at the 2010 GreenBuild. Noting that “one of out of every two new houses built is in China,” the speakers argued that the growth of energy-efficient buildings on the mainland is not only important for China, but also for the world.

China’s Olympics and Shanghai EXPO

According to Lin Borong, the 2008 Olympics and 2010 EXPO were two “important milestones” in the green building movement in China. The Olympic Village, which Lin helped design, was the first LEED-ND project in China, and featured a number of LEED Platinum buildings. Shanghai, through pavilions designed by China and other countries, demonstrated that “passive heating and cooling technologies” can work in China.

The 2008 Olympic Games were supposed to be “green and high-tech.” In this regard, facilities hit the mark: buildings featured an integrated ground heat pump system, solar collectors, advanced envelopes, daylighting systems, natural ventilation, and green lights. The ground-based greywater heat pump system reduced natural gas energy usage by 30 percent, which translates into hundreds of thousands of cubic meters saved.

The Shanghai EXPO demonstrated that passive design approaches can also save energy. “Integrated shading and building shape designs” (which look kind of like an inverted pyramid) enabled the designers to reduce direct solar radiation by 70 percent, saving 60MW of energy per square meter per year. Other Chinese pavilions featured green roofs and walls and renewable energy systems.

The Evolution of China’s Green Building Standards

Over ten years, China has gone through a series of steps towards a green building standard, culminating in the comprehensive 3-star rating system, which is similar to LEED.

In 2002, there was an eco-housing rating system. In 2003, the green olympics building assessment system (GOBAS), which was based on the Japanese CASBEE green building rating system, was created to help plan for the many new Olympic buildings.

Beginning in 2004, Beijing issued new green building codes, and two years later, national standards followed. In 2008, China got its version of LEED: the 3-star system, along with green building design labels.

LEED vs 3-star

Angela Li at EMSI, a group of the Kieran Corporation, said there are now 300-400 LEED projects in China, but 3-star is catching up fast. “LEED has a larger share of the market because they’ve been in practice here longer.” This built-in lead helps makes China the second largest LEED market in the world.

Li herself has worked on some 50 LEED projects in China, and outlined a few cases, including Taige apartments, a monster complex in Shenzhen, as well as commercial and industrial sites. One by Zaha Hadid is coming in 2014.

While the first LEED buildings were driven by foreign multinational corporations and local developers in major cities on the eastern coast, “second tier cities like Chongqing and Wuhan are now catching up.” Green buildings are “expanding geographically and there are more and more local customers.”

While the two systems are similar in many ways, 3-star accomodates some local issues better. “Land conservation is a bigger issue here than in the U.S. because we have a much larger population. As a result, we have landscape per capita guidelines, including 90 square meters for a residential unit.” 3-star may also encourage the use of recycled materials more than LEED does.

On LEED vs. 3-star, Li said “the two standards shouldn’t fight with each other. We should give room to client to compare and select.” There’s clearly room for both.

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