Western China makes steps to sustainable building

Chongqing Taoyuanju Community Center by Vector Architects
Chongqing Taoyuanju Community Center by Vector Architects

China is increasing its efforts to make its buildings more sustainable with a new four-year program that kicked off following a two-day conference earlier this month in Chongqing.

The conference brought together more than 250 participants from national and local governments, Chinese enterprises and associations from all provinces in Western China as well as related German organisations.

Building energy consumption in China has increased by 40 per cent since 1990 and accounts for about 30 per cent of total final energy consumption. Although in recent years there has been a significant growth in green buildings in China, the development is still at an early stage in western China.

In this part of the world, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) play a vital role in building sector but their staff often lack knowledge and skills in the field of sustainable building and have a limited access to financing.

The SusBuild project aims to foster sustainable building practices among these small companies in Chongqing City and Yunnan province. It is funded by a European Union project called Switch Asia II. This is concerned with capacity building, providing technical support and raising awareness of large-scale commercial buildings, strengthening the capacity of financial institutions for providing green loans to these kind of companies, and promoting the idea of a sustainable building sector to decision-makers at national and local levels.

For Europe there is the added benefit of fostering a business network locally and between the EU and China.

The conference addressed three topics: sustainable building materials and components, sustainable building design and construction, and energy management in buildings.

Lena Tholen and Christopher Moore from the influential German Wuppertal Institut, which initiated the project, shared European experiences of energy management in sustainable buildings, giving a policy perspective, and the design and construction of sustainable buildings.

Participants visited pilot project buildings and an industry park aiming at developing modern building industry clusters in Chongqin Quijiang District.

Amongst the buildings that the delegates saw were the green roofs of the Chongqing Taoyuanju Community Center, designed by Beijing-based Vector Architects. This is blanketed with plants, from vine-covered walls to the undulating green roof that mimics the shape of the surrounding hillside. The design includes a rainwater collection and reuse system, passive ventilation, permeable pavement, and locally sourced materials.

Chongqing Taoyuanju Community Center by Vector Architects

Chongqing Taoyuanju Community Center by Vector Architects

One building in the complex has earned LEED Gold certification. Xizi Otis Chongqing Plant won the award for its sustainable construction, reduced water use, energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality, among other measures. It also recycled 90 per cent of the waste generated during its construction phase, which used locally sourced materials to reduce its carbon footprint. It utilises an ongoing operations management process to minimise environmental impact.

The factory manufactures an elevator design that is a favourite of green buildings. The Gen2 elevator reduces energy consumption by up to 75 per cent compared with traditional elevators by using a regenerative drive, LED lighting and sleep mode for elevator lights and fans.

Also in the area is a regeneration project for a 22-hectare former iron and steelworks dating back to the 1930s in the Dadukou district that is designed to make it economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. The former gasometer is now a business hotel for an area that has a mixed economy with compact planning to ensure good connectivity; and sustainable forms of transport – buses, trams and pedestrian route.

Magic Mountains

Magic Mountains

In this district the authorities recently held a contest to design a new green business district. One entry, from the CEBO/Chongqing University team, was for a development populated with buildings that resemble prismatic mountain peaks called Magic Mountains.

The tops of the buildings have plants growing out of them and the design includes passive cooling and heating, a plan that encourages biking and walking, and measures to reduce the overall consumption of resources and energy by 22 per cent.

The university hosts a low carbon green building international joint research centre which this entry was intended to showcase.

SWITCH Asia II will continue until the end of 2019.

David Thorpe is the author of:

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