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New Building Standards to Save Energy

China's new Design Standards for Energy-efficient Public Construction (DSEEPC) will take effect on a limited basis in the first half of this year. Large cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Chengdu have been selected to implement the standards on a trial basis.


Energy optimization is emphasized in every aspect of the new standards, including design, materials, heating and air conditioning and ventilation. Land and water utilization, as well as environmental protection, are also considered.


“The most economical way to save energy is by developing energy-efficient structures,” said Zhao Jian, director of the Planning Department of the Tianjin Construction Administration Commission.


Floor space has been increasing on an average of 2 billion square meters per year, with more than 80 percent of the new buildings energy guzzlers. The trend pours salt on the wounds of the 95 percent of the existing 40 billion square meters of energy-inefficient buildings.


For example, more than 70 percent of the residential and commercial buildings in China are made of solid clay bricks, despite their notoriously poor insulation qualities. Energy consumption in these structures runs two to three times that of most of their counterparts in developed countries.


“Inefficient heaters and air conditioners are also large energy consumers, accounting for 55 percent of the energy used in all structures in China,” said general engineer Lang Siwei of the Chinese Academy of Building Research. “More electricity is used in residential and commercial buildings than by industry in some places.”


China issued the Design Standards for Energy-efficient Civil Construction in 1995, requiring that all new buildings cut energy costs by up to 50 percent starting July 1, 1996. However, by the end of 2000, a mere 5 percent of all new construction had met the standards. Half of those buildings were in Beijing.


Vice Minister of Construction Qiu Baoxing announced at a press conference last week that more than one-third of new buildings will be required to meet the standards and cut energy consumption by up to 50 percent by 2010. By 2020, all the new buildings will be expected to reduce energy use by 65 percent.


The ministry will intensify supervision over the construction process, including permits, design, inspections, approval and maintenance.


“Energy efficiency only raises the cost of construction 5 to 7 percent," said Qiu. "That can be made up within 5 to 8 years.”


To speed advances in this regard, the country is boosting cooperation with foreign companies to promote the development of "green" building technologies. For example, on Wednesday the Ministry of Construction signed an agreement with American Standard, a leading US maker of kitchen and bath fixtures and air conditioning systems.


American Standard is helping China to launch an award for the best green buildings in the country, Qiu said at the signing ceremony.


The government is also considering offering tax incentives to developers who use energy-efficient materials.


Meanwhile, Qiu said, China is considering canceling welfare heating supplies.


For decades, urban residents employed by the state lived in apartments belonging to their work units, which paid heating fees during the winter. The system encourages waste: if a room is hot, most users open a window rather than turn off the heating, because they don't feel the pinch in their pockets.


"People will try to save energy if they must pay themselves for what they use,” noted Liu Min, a senior researcher with Gansu Academy of Social Sciences in northwest China.


By 2020, energy consumption is forecast to triple to 1.1 billion tons of coal -- China's primary fuel -- if conservation is not promoted and employed. At that level, China will be the biggest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions in the world.


(China.org.cn by Unisumoon, March 3, 2005)

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