Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city (SSTEC), China’s latest and largest eco-city project, saw its first residents earlier this year. The city is built on a blend of non-arable saline and alkaline land that was virtually uninhabitable five years ago. While this is an accomplishment in and of itself, SSTEC is trying to go even greener in terms of the energy efficiency of its buildings.

Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city in 2012 (Source:

SSTEC aims to offer green building certification based on more stringent standards than anywhere else in the country, including the national standards. It has already set up a Green Building Evaluation Committee (GBEC) to supervise building quality.

But in terms of energy efficiency, SSTEC’s GBEC still lacks the clearly defined requirements found in comprehensive international standards like the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. According to a World Bank report, the GBEC provides standards only for the building envelope and central heating, unlike LEED, which covers a broad range of energy systems including lighting, air conditioning, water heating, and appliances. While the ambition in this eco-city project is commendable, the oversights in SSTEC’s efficiency standards reflect a lack of comprehensiveness in green building standards across China, as the GBEC is already the country’s most advanced and comprehensive building standard.

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12th Five-Year Plan, China, emissions trading, energy efficiency, energy policy, Green Buildings, greenhouse gas emissions, LEED

In a previous post, we discussed the general challenges posed by China’s statistical system. Despite these challenges, the Chinese government has started making a serious effort to establish a credible data infrastructure. Before such a transparent and reliable statistical system becomes fully functional, any research involving Chinese data will not be easy. This is especially the case for new topics like green economy.

Improvement in basic statistics, such as employment data, could help stimulate growth of China's green sectors

This July, Worldwatch will be releasing a new report titled “Green Economy and Green Jobs in China: Current Status and Potentials for 2020,” the first output of a project sponsored by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. Given limitations on green economy data, we had to think creatively to come up with reliable estimations. Although the mixture of methodologies we developed can be improved as better data become available, our report represents the most in-depth sector-based study so far on the job creation potential of China’s green economy.

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China, data availability, data reliability, Green Buildings, green economy, green jobs, green sectors, input-output model, renewable energy, solar PV, statistical system, sustainable development, wind power

By Haibing Ma and Lini Fu  

China has launched more than 100 ”Eco-City” initiatives in recent years, according to a 2009 World Bank report—more than any other country worldwide. These efforts have proven to be an investment hot zone and appear to be a timely mechanism for building China’s sustainable future, particularly as the country urbanizes rapidly. But actually implementing these diverse projects has hit its own sustainability snags, putting a halt to or even shelving several initiatives and putting many others in serious question. 

Photo copyright belongs to

Finnish professor Eero Paloheimo, in his pioneering book on the concept, Syntymättömien sukupolvien Eurooppa (The Way Towards a New Europe), observes that most existing theories and designs for Eco-Cities worldwide share a common goal: to enhance the wellbeing of citizens and society through integrated urban planning and management that fully harnesses the benefits of ecological systems, and protects and nurtures these assets for future generations. According to Paloheimo, an Eco-City should embrace the two basic features of: 

China, Climate Change, Dontan, eco-city, emission reduction, Green Buildings, green development, green economy, low-carbon roadmap, Shanghai, sustainability, sustainable agriculture, sustainable deveopment, Tianjin, Wanzhuang

The Empire State Building is undergoing a 20 mio. USD retrofit to reduce its energy usage by 40%. - Wikipedia Commons

It’s the beginning of November and the Worldwatch office building’s central A/C is still blowing full blast. I’m writing this blog in a wool sweater. Can there be any better inspiration for discussing the issue of energy efficiency? Let’s explore this time some of the strategies available for greening the building stock, taking examples from both sides of the Atlantic.

In the United States and Europe alike, many existing buildings are old, energy inefficient, and often poorly managed. Yet half of all the buildings around today will still be standing 30 years from now. Enhancing the energy efficiency of these structures and adapting them to a changing climate is therefore essential. So is educating citizens to increase their energy savings.

On October 27, at the invitation of Ulrich Braess, Director of the Goethe Institute in Washington D.C., guest speakers Monika Griefahn (former Green Party Member of the Federal German Parliament), Kurt Shickman (Director of Research for the Energy Future Coalition), and Brooks Rainwater (Director of Local Relations at the American Institute of Architects) discussed the challenges of retrofitting buildings in the United States and Germany.

When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, three main sectors—energy utilities, manufacturing, and transportation—are the usual suspects. Yet residential and commercial buildings together account for 40 percent of U.S. emissions, more than either the transportation (34 percent) or industry (26 percent) sectors. The share is slightly lower in Europe, averaging 36 percent, but still represents more than one-third of regional emissions. In both the U.S. and Europe, buildings also account for some 40 percent of total primary energy use. Hence, they represent a key challenge for future energy and climate policies.

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buildings, energy efficiency, energy policy, Europe, feed-in tariffs, Germany, GHG emissions, Green Buildings, green jobs, USA
Ecobuild is a green building trade fair happening in London this week

Ecobuild is a green building trade fair happening in London this week

Surveying the acres of exhibits at the Ecobuild 2010 green building trade fair in London this week, not to mention the tens of thousands of people mobbing them, I surprised myself with the feeling I wanted to go shopping.

I traveled here to deliver a presentation on population and climate change. But by the time I’d spent a few hours here I felt like moving to England and building a modest little cottage equipped with rainwater harvesting, dimmable LEDs, insulation made from grass, and a furnace and water heater burning waste wood, not to mention a roof full of photovoltaic cells that blend almost seamlessly with Cambrian slate.

For unleashing innovation to deal with climate change, there’s nothing like a good policy environment. The United Kingdom has one. The United States doesn’t. So Ecobuild wouldn’t work in the U.S., not on this scale, anyway, and not with this level of excitement.

The UK launches the opening phase of its national Carbon Reduction Commitment next month, which introduces five-year emissions budgets aimed at an 80-percent reduction of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. All the country’s political parties embrace the effort. David Cameron, who leads the Conservatives here, is famous for riding his bicycle to show voters how green he is. Many conservatives in my country, I had to admit to my British friends, see snow in February as proof that global warming is a leftist conspiracy and cling to their large vehicles with pride.

Can we “ecobuild” our way to true environmental sustainability? I asked the audience this question in the talk I delivered here. My own answer: probably not. But it’s a heck of a start, and the United Kingdom is moving ahead while, in the United States, we’re mired in politics and inaction. It rains too often in England for my taste, but other than that there’s a lot to like here.

Climate Change, Climate Policy, Ecobuild, Green Buildings