News Article
March 29, 2011

Green Buildings in China: All Signs Point to Rapid Growth

Michelle Bai, Green Buildings Manager,

Johnson Controls Shanghai

Available in Chinese.

Trends in China Stimulate Exponential Growth in Certified Green Buildings

In only a decade, China has gone from just one certified green building to nearly 450 – more than 400 of them built since 2007. Drivers of the trend include concern over climate change, enhancement of brand image, a better-informed market, and growth in domestic equipment suppliers. Michelle Bai, Green Buildings Manager for the Johnson Controls office in Shanghai, reports on the past, present and future of green buildings in China in a February 2011 podcast interview with Julia Currie, Sustainability Programs Manager with the Institute for Building Efficiency. Bai has guided numerous efforts for green buildings in China, including the Shanghai Expo Center Pavilion, which obtained LEED Gold Certification. Highlights of her comments follow.

Listen to, or download the podcast from the Resources & Tools section above.

The Past Decade Brought Exponential Growth

: “In the past 10 years, I have worked on growing the market for green buildings, reaching out to organizations including the government, universities, and real estate associations through seminars, conferences, and all kinds of activities. Basically, my role is to develop and promote green buildings in China. In 2001, China had only one green building, and in 2006, we had only five LEED-certified buildings. In 2007, we had 35. And since then, the number has increased greatly. Today it’s almost 450, including those with Chinese Three Star Standard certification. That number is still growing very, very rapidly.”

Five Primary Factors are Driving Green Building Growth

: “The Chinese government is now focused not only on green buildings. Eventually they will also promote green cities and eco-cities, or low-carbon cities. A second reason people want to get green buildings is the huge reduction in energy consumption and operation costs. And thirdly, it enhances the brand image. When you have a Three Star or LEED-certified building, it can bring a good image and help attract more international companies waiting to rent the space. Fourth, the lifecycle cost can be reduced. And fifth, the energy consumption, the environmental protection rises because people realize we need to have good-quality buildings.”

Green Buildings in China Employ a Variety of Design Features and Technologies

: “We are growing the solution from the envelope side, which is a low-glass type, and also some curtain  walls. We are also looking at the water source, the heat pump system, TV systems, solar energy, and also area lighting systems, daylighting concepts, and green water collection systems. Of course, the solutions include the building management system and smart building systems, too. It depends on in which kind of green building certification the owner wants, and the level.”

The Up-front Cost of Green Building is an Important Concern

: “People in China keep saying, ‘Oh, they’re going cost more.’ People have been talking about a 28 percent cost increase for green buildings. Maybe, but it depends on what level [of certification] you are seeking. Normally, we’re talking about a basic level. And then the cost does not actually increase that much – only probably three to five percent. Of course, we have to do a lot of education, and before they make a decision to do the green building, we have to provide a pre-assessment for them. After pre-assessment, they realize it’s not that much additional cost. So that’s one challenge. Secondly, there’s the lack of government policies and incentives for green buildings.

Existing Buildings are the Next Wave for Green Certification

: Building owners are realizing that through green retrofits they can enhance their image and also improve the quality of their buildings. The central government of China has estimated that the total cost of retrofitting existing buildings to be completed by 2020 with energy-saving systems would be $193 billion. That’s for all buildings, residental, commercial and others. But the benefits are huge. Greening of existing buildings alone could reduce coal use by 135 million tonnes per year. 

Green Buildings in China Have Gone Mainstream, and Market Demand is Strong

: Education about green buildings in China has improved greatly. Ten years ago, nobody understood what green buildings were. Today, green buildings are recognized by the government, the people, and the markets. And green building product manufacturers and suppliers know that it’s a good market. In the past, a lot of the products were imported from different countries, or in some cases assembled in China. Now there are a lot of domestic products for green buildings on the market, and these companies are doing research to determine how to improve them and how to reduce cost. This is going to be very rewarding work for those equipment suppliers. So I think there is a very good future for green buildings.

March 2011


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