China Warms to Energy-Saving Challenge

China constructionA quick but compelling look inside China’s nascent green building movement, from Caijing’s English edition:

This past winter was particularly cozy for residents at No. 12 West Huixin Street in Beijing. “In the past, it was so cold in winter that we would need to wear heavy sweaters and even coats at home,” said an elderly man surnamed Wang, who has lived in the building more than 10 years. “Now, a sweater should be enough.”

Wang’s 20-year-old apartment building was included in a Beijing pilot project for energy-saving reconstruction. A project manager said the once-chilly building was refurbished with heat-trapping thermal insulation in the walls, boosting energy savings to levels substantially above government standards.

Building residents told Caijing they are satisfied with the renovation results. But the results did not come easily. And a variety of other challenges lie ahead as China sets an ambitious course for energy conservation.

…According to the construction ministry, China aims to annually save 120 million tons of coal through building improvements nationwide by 2010. In addition to applying energy-saving techniques to new construction, projects that involve existing buildings in Beijing and Tangshan are widely considered as potential contributors toward the government’s goal.

However, financing issues and a lack of information about energy consumption in existing buildings pose challenges. The current plan calls for the Ministry of Finance, local governments and building residents to share expenses. Meanwhile, Xu told Caijing that a lack of proven, detailed energy information about individual residential buildings makes it difficult to accurately estimate their renovation costs and energy-saving capacities.

For background on green building efforts in China, see Lawrence Berkeley Lab’s “Building Green for China’s Future” (on Olympics-related environmental planning), and the Christian Science Monitor’s “A ‘green’ building rises amid Beijing smog” (a profile of the first building in Beijing to achieve LEED certification.)

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