Currently the three biggest energy consumers in China revolve around construction, industry and transportation. With construction in China booming and an increased demand for comfort in residences, energy consumption for construction purposes has risen accordingly, reported China Economic Weekly on October 29.
According to Wang Tiehong, chief-engineer of the Ministry of Construction, energy consumption for construction purposes accounts for 30 percent of society's total energy consumption. The energy is mainly consumed by heating and air-conditioning and reaches about 20 percent.
The above-stated "30 percent" only refers to the energy consumed in constructing and utilizing these buildings. This, plus the energy consumed in producing building materials and other related construction costs, accounts for 46.7 percent of the entire social energy.
"Each year we'll have another 2-billion-square-meter new buildings and 99 percent of them are high energy consumption structures. With regard to the existing 43-billion-square-meter buildings, only 4 percent of them have adopted energy saving measures. Therefore the energy consumed by heating per unit area is more than 3 times that consumed by new buildings in developed countries. If no effective measures are taken China's building energy consumption will be treble the present standard by 2020.
Building energy efficient edifices has aroused the attention of related institutions. Early in 1986 China first tried building energy efficient structures using design standards on a trial basis. And in 1999 this building energy efficient design standard was mandated in northern China. The General Office of the State Council and the Ministry of Construction put forward a series of documents to promote energy conservation in construction over the last few years. Local governments have also adopted practical measures to reduce building structures that consume undue energy.
However, because of a lack of effective administrative supervision, the implementation of building to enhance energy saving measures has not run smoothly.
But the above facts do indicate that China's energy saving technology regarding edifices still has great market potential. Chou Baoxing, vice minister of Construction, said that using highly efficient energy technology to transform existing buildings may save about 600 billion yuan (US $80.5 billion) each year, which means China could reduce the amount of output needed from the 4 Three Gorges Power Stations.
Currently China is facing environmental deterioration and limited resources. During the process of industrialization and urbanization, if the country wants to maintain a growth rate of over 7 percent per year and achieve sustainable development in the next 15 years, it is crucial to promote energy saving buildings and reduce building energy consumption now.
Top three energy consumers in construction
This March China's Annual Report on the Development and Research of China's Building Energy Conservation (2007) issued by the Building Energy Research Center of Tsinghua University claimed that north urban heating consumes 40 percent of the total energy consumed by urban buildings, thus constituting the largest part of building energy consumption. The Ministry of Construction statistics (2006) showed that heating for the whole nation consumed 0.13 billion tons of coal that year, or 10 percent of the total social energy consumption.
"When winter comes, I feel rather annoyed: central heating supplies too much heat. It makes my home very hot and dry. It wastes energy and makes people uncomfortable," Mr. Han, a Beijing resident, told the reporter from China Economic Weekly.
Mr. Han urged the property enterprises to turn down the temperature a little bit. The answer he got was "No".
Chou Baoxing, vice minister of the Construction, said in an interview that the current heating system design is not reasonable; users cannot adjust their house temperatures. When they feel too warm, they have to open the windows to compensate. This wastes about 7 percent of the total heat. "The energy consumption per unit area in our country is 1-1.5 times that of northern Europe countries at the same latitude," said Jiang Yi, an academician of the Chinese academy of Engineering and professor from Tsinghua University.
Large public buildings
"Large public building areas take up only 4 percent of the total building area. But public buildings consume 22 percent of the total energy consumed by structures," said Wu Yong, vice director of the Science and Technology Department of the Ministry of Construction. The newly issued Annual Report on the Development and Research of China's Building Energy Conservation (2007) claimed that the electricity consumption per area in large public buildings is 70~300KWH/(square meters per year), which is about 5-15 times greater than the energy consumed by resident buildings. Actually, large public buildings are considered to be highly concentrated energy consumption areas.
Taking Beijing as an example: In Beijing public structures take up 5.4 percent of all structures, yet they consume nearly half of the total electricity allocated for the municipal residents on a yearly basis.
On June 27, the State Council issued the Resident Building Energy Conservation Regulations (draft), stipulating that in summer the temperature in air-conditioned public buildings shall not be lower than 26℃. The reporter from China Economic Weekly visited a dozen office buildings this August and found that the temperature for almost all public buildings was lower than 26℃. The staff wore jackets and sweaters while the air conditioners hummed.
Academician Jiang Yi described large public building energy consumption as a "black hole". Ordinary Beijing household air conditioning consumes 2 kwhs of electricity per square meter on average. However, air conditioning in a large public building consumes 60~70 kwhs of electricity per square meter. Usually the household air conditioning operates about 400 hours during half a year; large public building air conditioning runs 1,800 hours during the same period of time.
Why have large public buildings become huge energy consumers?
First and foremost, their design doesn't promote energy conservation. According to some inside experts, many large public buildings have huge glass screen walls: glass doesn't shelter from the sun and insulate heat. Glass causes great energy losses. "These buildings are high energy consuming construction wastelands," exclaimed Huang Ming, the president of Huangming Group. For him, the percentage of energy consumed by windows and the walls is 6 ：1. Large public buildings are extremely hot inside in the summer and extremely cold in the winter due the great expanse of glass walls. Due to this glass many skyscrapers must turn on their air-conditioners to adjust the indoor temperature. "Their energy consumption is shockingly high."
Apart from the design, Lin Haiyan, a researcher from China Academy of Building Research, believes that the users of resident buildings have strong energy conservation awareness. Large public buildings are for public use, so nobody cares about whether they are energy conserving or not. No one is responsible for this huge energy consumption.
Academician Jiang Yi believes that in order to reduce energy consumption in large public buildings, China needs to establish an energy conserving examination system for new buildings and also an energy consumption quota management mechanism.
This January five ministries including the Ministry of Construction jointly issued Certain Opinions on Strengthening Large-scale Public Building Engineering Construction Management. The document criticized the following conduct: neglecting resource and energy conservation; occupying too much land; putting excessive emphasis on the appearance of buildings and neglecting their functions in use.
Lai Ming, the director of the Science and Technology Department of the Ministry of Construction disclosed that the Ministry of Construction would do a statistical analysis of energy consumption in state administrative office buildings and large public buildings in 32 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions including Beijing and Shanghai. It will publish the energy consumption conditions of some state administrative office buildings and other large public buildings. Based on these statistics and conditions, the Ministry of Construction will set down a series of rules to reduce the energy consumption: energy use standards, energy consumption quotas and penalties for energy consumption in excess of the energy consumption quota and energy saving services.
Solid bricks are traditional wall materials. Data from the National Reform and Development Commission indicated that wall materials account for 70 percent of all building materials. Solid bricks are primary wall materials. Solid brick production consumes 1 billion cubic meters of clay. This is equivalent to ruining 500,000 mu (33,350 hectares) of potential farmland. Statistics show that each year China consumes 70 million tons of standard coal to produce solid bricks.
Since 2000 the state has forbidden the use of solid clay bricks because of its huge energy consumption as well as its damage to the land. This year the State Council issued the Notice about Further Advancing the Wall Material Innovation and Promoting Energy Conservation Construction. The paper mandates that by the end of 2010, all cities must cease using solid clay bricks. Also, the annual output of solid clay bricks shall be limited to 400 billion bricks or under.
"The state has published a list of cities prohibiting solid bricks. Many big cities like Beijing and Shanghai no longer uses solid bricks, but there are still large amounts of solid bricks in rural localities," remarked an insider.
Since solid clay bricks consume so much energy and the state has put forward a series of bans, why haven't environmentally friendly sand lime bricks or concrete hollow bricks replaced solid bricks?
"People don't like sand lime bricks: their water absorbing capacity is not good; their compressive resistance is not ideal. People don't even use them to build bungalows. They only use them to build pigsties or toilets," a brick factory director explained.
But one salesman held a contrary opinion. He told the reporter that the production cycle of concrete hollow bricks is rather long, nearly a month. Additionally, this production is very complicated and generates relatively high costs. Currently each concrete hollow brick costs about 0.44 yuan (US$0.06), which is more expensive than a solid clay brick. "People buy solid bricks because they are cheap."
An official from the National Development and Reform Commission stated that China would enhance the support for the promotion of new wall materials. Administrative office buildings with the financial allocations or subsidies, public buildings, economically affordable housing, model building communities and the productive projects invested by the state all must use new wall materials. China will provide necessary funding to support major technological development and industrial modeling projects for new wall materials.
20 years of building energy saving practice has achieved little effect
"Why aren't energy conserving buildings smoothly incorporated into China's real estate market? Why do they encounter so much resistance? These issues demand our attention," an industry insider said.
Tu Fengxiang, the director of the Building Energy Efficiency Committee of the China Construction Industry Association, previously expressed deep worries because buildings that promote energy conservation has developed slowly and encountered many difficulties along the way. More and more high-energy consumption buildings are cropping up while the gap between China and the developed countries becomes wider and wider.
This is a fact. Faced with such huge building energy consumption, energy saving standards for construction are not likely to transition smoothly. Here is an obvious example: in 2005 the Ministry of Construction conducted a survey of energy saving conditions for construction in 17 provinces. It turned out that only 50 percent of the energy saving design projects in northern areas operated according to actual design standards. Chou Baoxing, the vice minister of Construction, concluded the cause is due to the lack of an effective administrative supervision system.
As is mentioned above, China's energy saving construction work started in the 1980s. A series of standards and laws were enacted to deal with this problem but: "So far no project has been punished for not meeting the energy saving standard," Zhang Qingfeng, vice director of the Center of Science and Technology of Construction, Ministry of Construction, disclosed in an interview.
The Regulation of Civil Building Energy Saving issued in October 2005 stipulates, "Construction units failing to meet the compulsory building energy saving standards shall be fined 200,000-500,000 yuan (US$26,673-66,682)." The regulation clearly specifies punitive measures but their implementation is still faulty. "For these are only macro policies. It is still very difficult to micro-manage them and also to effectively supervise real estate developers," explained Wu Yong, the vice director of the Science and Technology Department of the Ministry of Construction.
In addition to almost zero supervision, a lack of incentives has also hampered the promotion of building energy conservation.
"A huge hindrance is that the price of energy is still relatively low. Users and developers of buildings gain few benefits from energy saving technology projects. Therefore they are not very enthusiastic about these projects," an insider commented.
He further stated that now there exists an unfavorable tendency: people tend to mystify energy saving technologies. So they dare not to learn about such technologies and they believe that saving energy will greatly increase costs. With house prices rising fast, investment or non-investment in energy saving constitutes are in a big contradiction. Without any investment in energy saving, houses sell at very pleasant prices. Such factors hamper an all-round promotion of energy saving projects.
"Without incentives developers are very unlikely to construct energy saving buildings willingly. We do not lack laws and regulations and technology is not a problem. The key problem is that we have no incentive policies. For example, buildings that conserve energy are not mentioned in bank loan regulations," Zhang Zaidong, chairman of the Fengshang Real Estate, told the reporter.
Wu Yong said: "Because economic incentive policies directed at erecting energy conserving buildings is lacking, the market mechanism to promote building structures to save energy has not yet materialized. It is difficult to regulate and control the behaviors of different interest groups. Consequently the real estate development markets are not adequately responsive to the current changes in the energy saving index for construction purposes."
For real estate developers, building costs seems to be a hindrance toward constructing energy efficient buildings. But at the 2007 Sino-Europe Building Energy Saving Summit Forum and Sino-Europe Energy Saving Building Project Contact Meeting, experts pointed out that the energy saved from the long-term use of energy saving green buildings have values far higher than their initial expenses. A developer claimed that a Chinese energy efficient building only consumes 30 percent of the energy consumed by an ordinary building and that it could save 10,000 tons of water each year. Energy experts asserted that expenses saved from the 70-year life span of an energy saving building could erect a similar building at no cost.
(China.org.cn by Zhang Ming'ai, November 7, 2007)