• Miller Finn

How China is radically reinventing urban architecture to go green

China is a land of contrasts. The rural parts of the country are known for beautiful, green expanses. China’s cities are breathtaking in a more literal sense. It’s common to see people on the streets wearing face masks to avoid breathing dangerously polluted air. 

Large Chinese cities like Beijing consistently land in the “very unhealthy” range for air quality. This reputation for pollution — and the health consequences associated with it — is causing China to take quick action. On top of cleaning up its smog-filled cities, combating climate change is a key part of China’s current five-year plan

China is expected to be home base for almost half of the world’s new construction in the next ten years.

As the country finds new ways to bolster its robust economy while doubling down on sustainability, significant investment opportunities are emerging in Chinese markets such as construction, architecture, and urban design. In fact, China is expected to be home base for almost half of the world’s new construction in the next ten years. Currently, the country builds up to two billionsquare meters annually.

Below are a few ways in which China’s commitment to innovative architecture is paving the way for a greener future — and for exciting sustainable investment opportunities.

A commitment to green urban living

Many of the current construction projects in Chinese cities adhere to strict environmental regulations. The Chinese government now requiresthat 50 percent of new urban buildings be certified sustainable. China’s State Council Green Building Action Plan mandates that public buildings like schools and hospitals meet sustainable building standards of the country’s three-star rating system, the Green Building Evaluation Label. This system takes six categories into consideration including land, energy, water, resource efficiency, indoor environment quality, and operational management. The US’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system also has a strong presence in China. In 2015, LEED-certified Grade A office buildings in 10 of China’s major cities were 28 percent of the total market.

Even the ways in which Chinese innovators are approaching construction are changing drastically. Take Zhang Yue, the chairman of Broad Group, who has launched dedicated units to take on sustainable building projects. These efforts have led to prefabricated, modular, and sustainable steel skyscrapers that can be constructed in a matter of a couple of weeks.

There’s financial incentive for such projects to continue, as well as for investors to flock to. A report found that office space in China with green certifications enjoys up to 26 percent rental premiums. These buildings also stand a higher chance of thriving during a downturn in the commercial real estate market. Additionally, China’s commitment to sustainable architecture has  led to growth opportunities in industries ranging from waste management to LED lighting to wind- and solar-powered energy.

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