The first stage of what is hoped to become China's first "sustainable village" is due to be completed in August.
The project in Huangbaiyu Village in northeast China's Liaoning Province has been based on the "cradle-to-cradle" theory devised by William McDonough, a famous architecture designer from the United States.
He believes that instead of designing or using cradle-to-grave materials and objects, that are dumped in landfills at the end of their 'life,' cradle-to-cradle cycles should be created instead, so no waste is created.
The Huangbaiyu program is being led by the China-US Centre for Sustainable Development (CUCSD).
The first stage of eco-dwellings for 42 households, equipped with rooftop solar panels, radiant heat floors and pipes for methane heating, have already been completed.
There are about 300 households in the village.
"Our objectives focus on new enterprise creation, community development and education, and social development," said Rick Schulberg, of the CUCSD.
However, there is doubt over whether many of the villagers can actually afford to buy any of the new properties.
Most make their livings by planting corn or raising sheep. Their average yearly income is about 3,000 yuan (US$375). Without better-paid jobs, they will struggle to afford the price of the new properties.
Some are reluctant to leave the land they currently live on, as it is close to resources necessary for them to make their living.
Dai Xiaolong, village head, also the representative on the Chinese side of the project, said he hoped to set up an enterprise that could employee many villagers and offer reasonable terms of pay, so they could afford one of the new properties.
Dai, also a successful businessman, has invested about 5 million (US$625,000) in the project, most of the total investment.
Schulberg said: "It is very important that the demonstration part of the village not be considered a beautiful sculpture always waiting to be unveiled ... from my personal perspective, it is a 'work in progress' and will be for many years to come."
He revealed he would lead a team of US investors later this week in the village looking for projects and ways of financing so as to develop rural village enterprises and boost people's incomes.
The work in a section of Huangbaiyu has focused on three major areas energy-saving houses, clean gas and water supply systems.
The walls and roofs of new houses have been built with a combination of compressed earth blocks, straw bale technologies and special polystyrene.
It enables the properties to consume only one-third of the heating of traditional homes, according to Sun Lina, a technician from the local Benxi Architectural Design and Research Institute.
Cooking and heating has traditionally been a problem for villagers.
Dai, the village head, said in the future, farmers could get fuel for cooking and heating from a nearby biomass gasification plant.
(China Daily June 13, 2006)