Beijing’s Green Courtyard

Chen demonstrated the workings of the system. The processed water constantly flows into the flowerbed and fish pond, saving water and adding vitality to the courtyard.

“According to calculations, the artificial wetland can collect 80 tons of sewerage water a year. If it is recycled for watering plants, cleaning floors and flushing toilets, it will reduce fresh water usage by as much as 50 tons a year,” said Wang Yutian.

“The quality of life for residents here has improved on numerous levels,” said Chen Geng, “The system saves water and reduces my bills, and is also in line with the idea of low carbon emissions and eco-living.”

As a cosmopolis, Beijing’s water consumption is prodigious. According to statistics released by the Beijing Water Supply Bureau in 2013, Beijing’s yearly average water consumption reached 3.6 billion tons; but the city has a total volume of water resources of only 2.1 billion tons a year, meaning there is a deficit of about 1.5 billion tons. Each resident of Beijing enjoys less than 100 tons of water resources a year, less than 5 percent of the average level of China. This makes Beijing one of the most water-starved cities in China.

Preserving the Past

In addition to the water conservation system, the restoration project adopted several energy-saving and emission-reduction measures. For example, it installed solar panels that can power the pumps in the daytime and the courtyard lighting in the evening. Water-saving faucets and LED lights were also introduced. What’s more, along with this modern technology, the traditional features of Beijing’s courtyards have not gone neglected.

“As a unique construction in Beijing, the courtyard is the body representing the spirit of the ancient city, and allusions to Chinese culture can be found in its every detail. The layout and design, after hundreds of years of improvement, perfectly fit the special climate of the city. However, it can’t meet the ‘livable’ demands of modern times,” said Tu Zheng.

“Therefore, we deliberately considered the lifestyle of old Beijingers during the alterations,” said Duan Tao, deputy general manager of the Strategic Development Department of Sino-Ocean Land, “We used stones with intricate patterns to build the water feature and old-fashioned wall lamps to preserve the original construction’s style as far as possible.” Duan and his colleagues strive to apply eco-friendly technology, meanwhile finding a balance between carrying forward the traditional culture, facilitating a comfortable modern life and conserving energy.

In addition, a new gray brick wall was erected at the entrance of the courtyard where the original screen wall used to stand. It is an important part of the courtyard but was knocked down dozens of years ago.

The total expense of the renovation work reached RMB 300,000, not a humble sum, but “similar restorations will continue,” Wang Yutian said.

While constructing green buildings, Sino-Ocean Land is also devoted to promoting a green life style through its non-profit demonstration projects in communities. With its money- and resource-saving function as well as its beautification effect, it’s expected that the water-saving renovation model will be adopted across Beijing’s old courtyards.

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