Lecture 12: Green Buildings and Renewable Energy in China

Professor Tan Hongwei
Prepared By Dauglas W Juma, Tongji University

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report, buildings account for a third of the global final energy use and about a fifth of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Thus, efforts towards reduction of emissions from buildings would help curb GHG emissions. Based on this premise, Prof. Tan Hongwei gave a lecture on green buildings and renewable energy in China. He highlighted the need to balance economy and ecology with social development to spur sustainable development. In his lecture Prof Tan emphasized the current state of emissions from different perspectives. China is currently leading the total CO2 emissions followed by USA and Europe, while on other hand USA is leading cumulatively followed by Europe with China coming in third. Interestingly, looking at the per capita CO2 emission, Australia leads followed by United States depicting the influence of lifestyles on emissions. He acknowledged the ever-increasing energy consumption in highly urbanizing megacities in Asia like Shanghai and Tokyo. This highlighted the need to inculcate green building concepts in urban planning.

Prof. Tan said that buildings account for 28% of end-user energy in China and hence there is a large need to adopt a green buildings concept. The green concept has five basic approaches: efficient energy planning, passive strategy, active transport, efficient building operation and low carbon lifestyle. These approaches were adopted during the Shanghai Expo 2010 for demonstrations. He said that adopting an eco-system planning is essential to holistic sustainability in a society. He further noted that Chinese government is keen on the green building and eco-city concept; this led to adoption of policy guide in 2007 for green commercial buildings. For further implementation, the government drafted the vision of the green campus concept, which has been adopted by over 50 universities across the country.

Professor Tan noted that Tongji University is among the institutions that have adopted green campus concept and has several programmes that are geared towards the green campus vision. Tongji University, for three consecutive years – 2010, 2011 and 2012 – participated in the Zero Energy Building competition, that is aimed at building a house that has zero emissions. It has thus far successfully constructed three houses that are zero emitters. The university also adopted Campus Energy Management Systems, (CEMS), which has an online platform system of managing energy consumptions from buildings and giving advice on ways to reduce energy consumptions. Overall, Tongji University aspires to be a sustainability-oriented University.  Finally, Prof Tan concluded by noting that for green building to have greater impact, the concept should be adopted at the design and planning stage of a building and when redesigning existing buildings. This would help to cut down energy consumption and thus lead to reduced emissions of GHG.