China has launched ambitious plans to make its residential and office buildings more energy-efficient.
In the first five months of the year, industrial standard makers announced three sets of new national standards: namely, regulations on energy saving for civil buildings, standards for residential buildings and standards for technical evaluations of residential buildings.
Another new guideline regarding the assessment of green buildings will take effect on June 1. Though not a compulsory standard, it asks for even higher standards in energy consumption and other environment-related indices.
According to Wang Guangtao, the Minister of Construction, these standards have formed a basic framework of industrial standards regarding energy-efficiency of buildings.
Chinese legislators are also actively involved in the process. Both the Law on Energy Saving and the Law on Architecture are being revised to accommodate the new standards.
A new decree on energy-saving for buildings is also high on the agenda of the State Council, Minister Wang said recently.
China's efforts to improve the energy-efficiency of its buildings is important for itself, but it also affects the rest of the world.
China is now the world's fourth largest economy and the second largest energy consumer. Over 30 percent of the world's coal, steel and cement are now consumed in China.
On the other hand, architectural energy consumption is accounting for 30 percent of the country's total energy consumption. The figure will rise to 40 percent if energy consumption for manufacture and transportation of construction materials is considered.
According to Jiang Yi, a professor in architecture with the privileged Tsinghua University, if nothing is done to check the situation, architectural energy consumption in China will double by 2020.
To meet the new demand would require the building of more than 10 power stations the size of the Three Gorges power station, he said.
Chinese vice-premier Zeng Peiyan and other senior government officials have repeatedly pointed out that reducing the architectural energy consumption should be given top priority in the national drive to turn China into a resource-saving and environment-friendly society.
The subject is already among the priorities in both China's 11th Five-Year-Plan period (2006 - 2010) and its medium and long-term plan for science and technology development.
The application of new materials and new energy is a major part of the government strategy to reduce architectural energy consumption.
A good example is the government effort to phase out the use of traditional bricks made of soil that have been used in China for thousands of years.
The manufacture of such bricks is not only energy-intensive, but also destroys tens of thousands of hectares of precious farmland in China every year. Bricks of this kind also provide poor insulation which increases energy consumption. By 2010, these bricks will have been phased out in all China's cities.
Government has also launched an ambitious plan to renovate existing buildings to make them more energy-efficient. The renovation of buildings housing the Ministry of Construction and other central government departments has already begun.
Planners hope to renovate 25 percent of all residential and public buildings in major cities by 2010, as well as 15 percent of the buildings in medium-sized cities and 10 percent of those in small cities. The whole job will be completed by 2020.
The government is also working on new policies that will provide tax rebates and other financial incentives for the construction and purchase of energy-efficient buildings.
(Xinhua News Agency May 24, 2006)