Is the Chinese government using green buildings sufficiently enough to evoke a change in the environment?

Seminar Paper, 2015

11 Pages, Grade: 1,7




Research methodology

Findings and discussion
Critical factors for green construction
Measuring “greenness”
Ecological modernization
A case study for price gaps
Public awareness
State policies



Is the Chinese government using green buildings sufficiently enough to evoke a change in the environment?

Christoph Kotsch (matriculation number: 2272650)


Starting a few years ago, China introduced several policies to support the implementation of green buildings including sustainable property development projects. This paper examines six conducted studies with different approaches in order to determine the greatest barriers for implementation andhow the Chinese government is making use of green technologies in terms of improving the environment. The issue of additional cost, incremental time, the bureaucratic system and the lack of public interest and information play a major role for the evaluation. Research findings provide an analysis of the current state of affairs, gives a critical summary and lists possible solutions to make the green building program more efficient. Enforceable regulations, a more transparent governance, credible evaluation processes, flexible incentives for developers, and a supportive environment for public interests groups, as well as a green strategy plan are all options to be considered.


Researchers and scientists from all over the world agree, that buildings have significant impact on the environment. Factors are not only natural resources like water, energy and materials, but also greenhouse gas emissions as well as pollution through construction or demolition waste. Statistics show that construction activities in China alone already reach about 300 million tons of waste per year, which makes up 40% of the total amount of waste across the country. A construction area of 10,000 m² in developed countries like the US would produce 180 tons of solid waste on average, whereas in China, the same area produces 500-600 tons.

Therefore, the newest trend seems only logical: “Green construction”. The ultimate goal and the concept behind it, is to construct buildings that are designed and operated to boost environmental, economic, health, and productivity performance over that of conventional buildings. It’s about improving resource-efficiency using ecological principles.The main advantages of green buildings are long term savings from energy efficiency, decreased resource consumption and waste, and at the same time improved health and productivity of tenants due to higher indoor environmental quality.

However, to successfully receive all these benefits, the effective endorsement of public policy plays an important role by facilitating sustainable development, e.g. the performance of manufacturers, corporate social responsibility and air quality in correspondence to rapid urbanization.

Without any doubt, green buildings would be a major asset to China’s cities. Furthermore, the government has already invested more than any other country in clean technology and recently signed international treaties, showing their attitude to face environmental issues. The “Eleventh Five Year Plan” stipulates the reduction of energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20%, the reduction of water consumption per unit of GDP by 30%, and the reduction of total major pollutants emission by 20%. The enforcement of these laws is expected to deal with environmental challenges. But nevertheless, China has always prioritized economic development for the past 30 years, which is why many scholars pointed the Chinese governance out to be the root of the problem.

This research is aiming to show whether the Chinese government’s efforts are sufficient to use green buildings as a major factor to change to the environment.

Research methodology

At first, to examine the current status of green construction in China, the author has used the results of a questionnaire by Qian Shi, Jian Zuo, Rui Hang, Jing Huang and Stephen Pullen. It is based on literature review as well as preliminary interviews and is going to provide information on general statements of people involved in green construction, and also a list of potential barriers to the implementation. This gives the reader an idea about people’s attitude towards green buildings and an overview about its possibilities and limitations.

Furthermore, the author looked into the nascent market for green real estate in Beijing as an example for client’s behavior and consumption preferences. The research by Siqi Zheng, Jing Wu, Matthew E. Kahn and Yongheng Deng shows possibilities how to measure a residential complex’s “greenness” and explains how it affects housing prices. This information is essential to fully understand the complexity of motifs behind green construction.

The involvement of the Chinese government in ecological modernization including a variety of programs related to green buildings is going to be introduced through the article by Yu Zhou, who did an extensive research on environmental initiatives and state power.

To go further into detail, the author summarized the results of a case study conducted by Qian Shi, Xiaodong Lai, Xin Xie and Jian Zuo, which is an effectiveness analysis of green building related policies during the “Eleventh-Five-Year” in China.

With this profound background knowledge at hand, the author examined the research data by Xiaoling Zhang, Andrew Platten and Liyin Shen, whofiltered the green elements in different property development stages and demonstrated the differences between technology objectives and incremental costs and barriers within the property project development process. Finally, based on these findings, the author is going to give a realistic outlook of the Chinese government’s possibilities and options as well as a prospective outcome for the future.

Findings and discussion

Critical factors for green construction

In general, it became obvious through Qian Shi et al.’s data analysis that clients, contractors and construction supervision engineers all agree: Environmental requirements should be considered, but at the same time, it is difficult to receive the information and data needed from their companies. Engineers also didn’t share the opinion that green construction technology should mainly be used to only meet the requirements. Instead, government enforcement is decisive. Supervising engineers stated, that it is important to make green construction technologies more popular, rather than making it mandatory to use them. On the one hand, clients are concerned about additional costs; on the other hand, engineers are more focused on quality and safety. So clients were more conservative, whereas engineers mainly aim to meet the government’s mandatory policies.

However, contractors criticized the government’s lack of motivation for implementing green construction, and claim that with improved awareness of all the benefits, clients would more likely be willing to use these technologies in their projects. Also, the questionnaire conducted by Qian Shi et al. shows evidence that most companies’ senior management doesn’t support the promotion of green construction as much as it should.

When asked about potential barriers for green construction, contractors were more concerned about the uncertainty in the performance of green materials as well as ambiguities and conflicts in green construction, which can of course be explained by the contractors’ field of work. Interestingly enough, contractors, supervisors and clients all named the most critical barrier the additional cost derived from green construction requirements. Extra time and limited knowledge of adoption of green construction were also mentioned, but in comparison of a much lower level of concern.

The key to the implementation of green construction is support and guidance from government and industry. Properly designed environmental standards and innovation can minimize costs or improve a product’s value, thus it will allow companies to enhance their productivity and therefore become more competitive. To break up the barrier for companies, policy guidance is the main factor. The government could do so by establishing tax incentives or provide subsidies, financial discounts, pre-tax loans and so on. A second factor would be technical support. Sustainable construction can refer either to the building process or the building itself. However, the results of Qian Shi et al.’s survey pointed out an immature green supply chain and a lack of trust on suppliers. One has to take into account, that for green construction, not only contractors, but also suppliers often play an important role.

Measuring “greenness”

Almost every potential apartment buyer in Beijing still doesn’t really know how the energy efficiency housing units are performed. The “China Green Building Evaluation Label” program by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development encourages developers to have their buildings evaluated according to the energy efficiency of the building. But still, only very few developers have participated in this particular program. One reason for the slow implementation could be due to the lack of public confidence to the program and insufficient institutional and financial mechanisms to reward developers who achieved a high score.

Because the Chinese government has not developed a standardized green rating system yet, Siqi Zheng et al. have constructed an innovative “green” ranking in their study. The Green Index can vary between 0 and 100. 157 complexes in the Beijing area have been examined and it was confirmed that 32 of them emphasize the usage of at least one green technology. Their average Green Index is 13.7, whereas the 125 other complexes only reach 9.0, which is significantly lower. To determine how important “greenness” can be at the presale stage for potential buyers, Siqi Zheng et al. tested the effect of green advertising based on a set of hedonic price regressions. What makes this point so interesting is the fact that buyers are unable to test the advertised green technologies of the residential complex before they actually buy it, so all the knowledge they have mainly comes from public information and the advertising itself. The public is generally not well informed about the performance of such “green” technologies. Furthermore, the analysis has shown that developers who adopt green technologies in their complexes receive a substantial reward, regardless of the actual performance of these technologies.

Ecological modernization

At present, China’s per capita building energy consumption is one of the lowest worldwide, only about one third of EU countries. However, this doesn’t indicate better building standards, but on the contrary, it shows the low living standards. Thermal insulation in China is quite poor compared to developed countries. The southern half of China doesn’t even have central heating, which has already provoked a lot of debates. Without well-insulated buildings, the high energy consumption will undermine the effort to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions. Thus, implementing green buildings in China is an urgent matter.

Since the year 2000, the Ministry of Housing and Urban and Rural Development has increased the mandatory energy conservation for new buildings. The basic standard is now 50% - 65% higher than in the 1980s. Despite changes like these, the vast geographical scale of the country comes with great climatic diversity and disparities in socioeconomic development and governmental capacities, which makes the green building program much more challenging.


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Is the Chinese government using green buildings sufficiently enough to evoke a change in the environment?
University of Duisburg-Essen  (Institut für Ostasienwissenschaften)
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ISBN (Book)
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China, green, environment, government
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Christoph Kotsch (Author), 2015, Is the Chinese government using green buildings sufficiently enough to evoke a change in the environment?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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