North America and Europe are typically viewed as the leaders in the green building marketplace. Collectively, they have thousands of commercial and residential properties certified under an alphabet soup of programs such as LEED, BREEAM, and HQE. However, the Chinese market is catching up quickly—with the force of the Chinese government behind it.
There are two major green building certification offerings in China. About 150 properties in China have registered under the ubiquitous LEED program, the main label for buildings in China to date. However, the China Green Building Design and Evaluation Labels, officially launched by the Chinese government agency MOHURD (Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development) in 2007, cover a similar selection of green building characteristics such as energy, land use, water, materials, and indoor air quality, and are likely to surpass LEED in China. In total, green building certifications in China could total 3 billion square feet by 2015.
Although the rollout of the Green Building Design and Evaluation Labels was slow at first, industry sources report that hundreds of buildings are being certified currently, thanks to strong support from the Chinese government. The government set green building as one of its major priorities in its 11th Five Year Plan. While there are few (if any) prescriptive policies demanding building certification, it is likely that the Chinese labels will start to appear with greater frequency in governmental buildings in the near future.
On the ground, the China Green Building Council has helped kickstart a broad network of professionals working on green building around the country. This is no small task in a country that is adding 2 billion square meters (about 20 billion square feet) of new space every year.
While the potential scale of green building activity in China will likely eclipse that of other countries in the coming years, green building leaders are reaching out to other countries to collaborate and share best practices. For example, in April, Rick Fedrizzi, the chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Youwei Wang, the chairman of the China Green Building Council. The purpose of the MOU was to initiate collaboration on green building activities and to partner on carbon emissions reductions in the two countries. It will be interesting to see how the partnership plays out.
China will have to smooth out a few bumps in the road before green building really takes off, though. The construction supply chain in China is not well adapted to programs such as LEED, and certification costs can soar when there are few contractors and building materials vendors with products and services that comply with LEED. Inevitably, China will retool its construction industry in support of green building certification as it looks to address energy and environmental challenges as a country.
Article by Eric Bloom, appearing courtesy Matter Network.