Despite increasingly severe pollution in its urban centres, China continues to lag in the application of sustainability measures in its construction sector, with only a minute number of projects in the country obtaining green building certification and even fewer living up to their accreditation requirements.
The Chinese press is rife with reports of ecological disaster resulting from the country’s breakneck economic growth and air pollution levels have hit hazardous heights in key cities such as Shanghai and Beijing. Despite this, China has thus far failed to fully embrace green building as a potential remedy for its environmental woes.
According to a report from the Chinese Society of Urban Studies, only 851 finished projects in China held the Chinese Green Building Evaluation Label as of March this year – a paltry figure given the staggering growth of the country’s major cities and the vast number of high rises and skyscrapers built during the past decade to deal with its rapid urbanization.
Parsing of the data in greater detail reveals an even more disappointing picture. While 796 of the projects have been certified for green designs, only 55 projects have obtained certification for green operation. Office buildings comprise 45 per cent of all green certifications, while residential buildings account for a meagre seven per cent.
China’s green building certificates are a state-sponsored initiative and are issued by the China Environmental United Certification Centre (CEC) of the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
Scrutiny and implementation of the government-backed green building standards remain weak. According to professor Zhuang Zhi, a senior engineer at the Green Building and New Energy Research Centre at Tongji University in Shanghai, many projects which have obtained government certification as green buildings are in fact “fake” and fail to meet standards when properly monitored.
“When we did the monitoring afterwards, many projects, such as solar power, performed far below the original design. If the guaranteed rate was 50 per cent and the reality was actually 30 per cent, then we would be thankful,” he said.
Many architects and planners are calling for the promotion of green building in China as the best means of dealing with the egregious pollution problems and surging energy demand created by its rapid industrialization.
Chen Shuo, president of Shanghai-based sustainable design firm Zero Carbon System, says green building is the inevitable path of development for China’s construction sector.
“How are we going to survive in 50 years? We are going to run out of fossil fuels in 46 years, gas in 38 years, and natural gas in 60 years,” Chen said at a recent talk on architectural design.
“Zero-carbon is undoubtedly the future trend in architecture.”