Domestic Affairs

China has good opportunity to build green housing

By Chen Xuefei (
Updated: 2011-03-18 16:20
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The Chinese government has decided to build 10 million apartments every year in the following three years to meet the demand of those who cannot afford the market price of housing as one of the ways to alleviate the high housing price.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told journalists at the press conference at the end of the National People's Congress on Monday that this was a good opportunity for the government to build energy-efficient housing.

As a leader in charge of energy-saving, reducing emissions and dealing with climate change, Premier Wen Jiabao always bears in mind how to implement these measures into various areas of national economic construction. He is right. Since many commercial houses have been built, it was difficult to put energy-saving measures into action because the construction was already completed.

Now, as the government is planning to build, it is really a good chance to build ecologically friendly, energy-efficient apartments. Why?

First, the timing is good. Since the construction is in its planning stage, the government can adopt high energy-efficient and ecologically friendly standards in construction. How to deal with wastewater treatment, building pipes and sorting waste, recycling and reusing, all these measures should be planned then built into the apartments with other construction works.

Second, it is well-known that China has invested heavily in solar energy, wind and other renewable energies. Only when there is a good demand for it, it will create a good market. New technologies such as solar to produce hot water, heating and electricity are also available. Thus, the new housing must take into consideration renewable and clean energy so that people don’t have to use coal as energy or use as little as possible, which is a very good way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the long run, it will save consumers money too because the resource is sun and wind. Of course, it would be better for the main grid to also be inter-connected with solar power to avoid risks of uneven supply.

Third, the government should play a leading role in guiding consumption in the future. Take Sweden for example, when the government wanted consumers to switch to green cars, it invested money and contracted with companies to produce green cars, and then they also offered incentives such as discounts so that more people would choose to buy green cars. Now even though the incentives are not there anymore, many people still choose green cars because their awareness has been raised. Many Swedish local governments also cooperate with developers to give them incentives to build energy-saving houses, for example, the “passive houses,” which use heat exchangers and solar or wind energy, achieving the goal of zero emission.

Fourth, while building residential apartments, kindergartens, homes for the elderly, clinics, playgrounds, gymnasiums should all be integrated into the building, or at least nearby. This will be convenient for children and parents and reduce transport, another way of reducing emission.

Fifth, the housing quality should be good. For example, the sealing of the walls should be solid, and the windows should be thick enough to hold heat inside. This would create big savings later. Heat pumps and exchangers can be used so that the new technology can turn the cold air into warm air, another way of saving heating energy.

With the initiative from government, the land can be sold cheaper or with discounts so that developers can meet the strict environmental and emission reduction standards in the process of building new housing.

To draw lessons from the same country, Sweden, in the 1960s, the government built a group of buildings that were cheap and temporary, but it was not well built and later received a lot of criticism. Sometimes houses built in the 1920s are better than those built later because the walls were thicker and the construction materials were more natural.

With a combination of these and the coordination of housing demand and consumption of green energy, it will be a good future to drive the green energy industry. It is also a way of transforming the GDP growth pattern.

The government should plan well with proper standards and requirements so that the housing will be built into a better future apartment. China will become cleaner and greener and people will definitely feel happier because a better environment will make people feel healthier. Thus a harmonious and stable society is naturally created.

The author is a freelance journalist who focuses on sustainable development. She can be reached at