A Green Future for Buildings and Transportation

By staff reporter LI YUAN

GREEN industry is relatively new to China. It was only a few years ago, when the Chinese government began promoting energy-saving lamps in local communities, that many people realized there was an alternative to conventional lamps. Green awareness has since spread – through campaigns to publicize non-disposable shopping bags, leave the car at home and take public transportation one day a week, and promulgation of the energy-saving home appliance subsidy policy.

The 2013 Energy Efficiency Indicator (EEI) China Survey Results compiled by Johnson Controls, a global company offering building efficiency and power solutions, show a 61 percent rise in energy conservation-aware Chinese consumers compared to 2012 – the largest increase in the world.

Government departments have gone all out to ensure that the total energy conservation and environmental protection industry output value reaches RMB 4.4 trillion by 2015, and that it accounts for two percent of GDP. In 2012, all economic sectors launched their 12th five-year plans on energy saving and emissions reduction – a goal to which the Ministry of Finance has allocated special funds.

The Hangzhou Low-Carbon Science & Technology Museum.


Green Buildings China Style

Buildings are a major energy consumer, a fact proven by data showing that they account for 20 to 40 percent of Beijing’s energy consumption. Green buildings are now foremost in the energy conservation project agenda.

Jiang Yi, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and director of the Research Center for Energy Saving in Architecture, Tsinghua University, believes that energy saving in architecture has the highest energy conservation potential. Exploring new modes of lifestyle and consumption, therefore, is the key to reduced carbon emissions.

The 2013 Energy Efficiency Indicator China Survey Results shows that 60 percent of respondents would prefer to rent certified green buildings, as long as the price is reasonable.

Jiang Yi has a specific standpoint on the fledgling but prosperous green building market. In his view, “Developing and promoting energy-saving technologies is a main route towards achieving green buildings. But the ‘greenness’ of a building relies most on incorporating different technologies to suit different climates, functions and usage patterns. Architectural energy saving does not imply the piling up of energy-saving technologies. The sole standard for energy saving is practical energy consumption and not installation of solar and insulation equipment.”

Jiang gauges the energy consumption of an office building according to whether or not it has fixed or openable windows. The power consumption per unit area in buildings whose windows can be opened is 60 to 70 kWh, while that where they cannot is 120 to 130 kWh. In the U.S. and Europe, where office windows are generally fixed, this figure can be as high as 150 to 200 kwh per unit area, because the interior temperature and humidity need to be artificially regulated.

“Developed countries function on high energy consumption, but China cannot emulate the Western mode of green building,” Jiang said. “We should take a scientific approach to finding the way that best suits us.” He holds that buildings that rely on machines to regulate the living environment are not sustainable. “We should find ways that are in harmony with nature, and in line with the characteristics of an area and the building’s specific functions. We should strive to control the increase in total architectural energy consumption to a level lower than that of the increase of the total area of buildings,” Jiang said.

Jiang has spent 33 years on research into architectural energy saving. In the face of rapid social development and dwindling resources, he sees it as a test not just of technological know-how but of energy conservation awareness, wisdom and capacity. To his mind, a green building is an ordinary house that meets people’s fundamental needs.

Green Transportation, Antidote to the Urban Nightmare

The rapid urbanization and motorization China has experienced in recent years have spawned traffic congestion, soaring energy consumption and a deteriorating environment. Car exhaust, which constitutes 22 percent of total PM 2.5 emissions, is acknowledged as a main source of air pollution. Green transportation, therefore, is now imperative.

Tang Kai, general planner of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, believes that the promotion of public transportation and of walking and cycling is crucial to sustainable urban transportation.

“If 3.9 million Beijing car owners were to cycle for an hour each day instead of driving the same distance, they would reduce petroleum usage by 29 percent and greenhouse emissions by nine percent,” Tang said. These drivers could also lose a per capita six kg in weight annually. He is hence convinced that, “Cycling is vital to energy saving, environmental conservation and health maintenance.”

Bicycle has been a popular form of conveyance in China for about a century. The country has long been known as the “Kingdom of Bicycles.” But industrialization and changes in lifestyle have diminished bike’s predominance as a transportation mode. In Beijing, cyclists on the road have fallen from 38.5 percent of road users in 2000 to less than 15 percent now. Yet environmental and transportation pressure alike make bicycling the ideal transportation mode.

Chinese cities have carried out various measures to mitigate transportation-related pollution. Beijing, for example, regulates the number of automobiles on the road and promotes public transportation and new-energy vehicles. It has also brought into effect the “5th-phase” standard of petrol whose sulphur content is within 10 ppm (parts per million).

The Chinese government is a keen proponent of green transportation. “Since the beginning of this year we have researched and carried out policies and measures, such as the trial low-carbon transportation system project, in efforts to achieve energy conservation in all respects. They include infrastructure planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance and management. Our aim is to guarantee a basic green low-carbon transportation system by 2020,” Minister of Transport Yang Chuantang said.

To achieve this target, the Chinese government has promoted advanced technologies and products in the transportation sector, and phased out high energy consumption, high carbon emission equipment. Its ultimate aim is to enlarge new energy and renewable energy sources.

Trial projects have been carried out in certain provinces, cities, harbors, roads and waterways. Around 1,000 companies operate low-carbon green transportation, and high energy consumption firms are undertaking pilot green transportation solutions. All in all, China is doing more than its bit to clear the air.