Zero Carbon Compendium


'As part of the 11th Five Year Plan on Energy Development, China plans to reduce the energy consumption of residential and public buildings by 65% by 2020'

Key Facts

Country Population:1.3 b
Capital Population:12.2 m
Area:9.3 km²
Density:143 people/km²

National Carbon Overview

As one of the most rapidly developing economies and the second largest energy consumer globally, China's energy policies have a significant impact on global energy supply and the environment. As a result of its rapid growth, China now accounts for 78% of net increase in world coal consumption. However, renewable energy is being rapidly researched and implemented, with strong increases in hydroelectric power and the fastest growing non-OECD regional market for wind power.[1] 

With the world's largest construction market, China is home to half of the new buildings built around the world every year. The nation spends up to 45% of its total energy on the manufacture and transport of building materials, construction of homes and offices, and on heating and cooling.[2] If the current rate of construction continues, it will be impossible for China to provide enough energy to operate all of these buildings properly, without a combination of energy conservation measures and renewable energy infrastructure. This rate of growth also means that by 2015, half of all the buildings in China will be less than 15 years old, in stark contrast to the situation in Europe, where most of the dwelling stock is already in existence. However, the energy standards for these new buildings are far behind in terms of European standards – four times more energy is required per m2 for heating and cooling in China compared to Europe.[3]


Exemplar Project

Linked Hybrid
Beijing, China

Linked Hybrid. Steven Holl Architects.

Completed in 2009 by Steven Holl Architects, the Linked Hybrid is a mixed-use development with eight towers and 664 apartments. It also includes public green space, commercial zones, a hotel, cinema and Montessori school.

Strong design has been counterbalanced by sustainable elements, including 644 geothermal wells, extending 100m below the development, making it one of the largest green residential projects in the world, and one of the largest geothermal systems globally. The wells provide heating and cooling, and the complex requires no boilers or electrical air conditioners. Water in the whole project is recycled, with a central pond that recycles 11,000 cubic feet of grey water each day for flushing toilets and for irrigating the landscape and green roofs. The exterior includes window louvers and low-e coated glass for solar gain and heat control, as well as a high-performance building envelope and an integrated slab heating and cooling system. As a result of the development's mass scale and sustainable credentials, Linked Hybrid is certified LEED Gold and has won numerous awards, including the AIA New York Chapter Sustainable Design Award 2008.[6]

Policy and Targets

The Chinese government has promoted energy-efficient technologies in buildings as a strategy for easing effects of the energy crisis. As part of the 11th Five Year Plan on Energy Development, China plans to reduce the energy consumption of residential and public buildings by 65% by 2020 through the technical reform of heat-supply systems, renewed efforts in promoting building energy efficiency technology and the renovation of existing buildings in the cold northern regions.

The drive for energy efficiency in China's residential sector was in response to severe summer power shortage due to the increased affordability and use of air-conditioning[4], which for many was representative of improved living standards. In response to this problem, an energy labelling system for air-conditioning units and refrigerators was introduced and became mandatory in 2005.

Existing Frameworks

China's Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development issues energy-saving codes for different building types in the country's four main climates. The codes largely focus on improving the building envelope through relatively high levels of insulation and high efficiency standards for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). The main environmental policy for housing is enacted through the Regional Energy Efficiency Codes for Residential Buildings which include requirements for three different climatic regions.[5]

However, since 2005, only 5% of all new construction had met the standards. As a result, revised standards call for increased enforcement, with a goal of more than one-third of new buildings required to cut energy consumption by up to 50% (base year of 1980) by 2010. It remains unclear if this goal has been met. As outlined in the China Medium and Long Term Energy Conservation Plan 2004, the government has planned for all the new buildings to have reduced energy use (65%) by 2020.

Support, Incentives and Grants

China's Renewable Energy Law, implemented in 2006 and amended in 2009, designates renewable technologies as a priority area for energy development and research. It requires power grid operators to purchase renewable energy from registered producers or face hefty fines for failure to accommodate renewable sources of energy.

The same law also offers financial incentives, including a national fund, discounted lending, preferential loans with subsidised interest and tax benefits for renewable energy projects. The law aims to increase the use of solar and wind power in China to 10% in 2011, as well as increase biomass usage. Unlike other countries, incentives and subsidies to promote green technology are usually directed at power companies and manufacturers rather than at consumers.



  1. U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2010). International Energy Outlook 2010.
  2. Natural Resources Defense Council. China Clean Energy Project.
  3. German Energy Agency. 'Energy Efficient Construction in China.' Construction in China Project.
  4. Lin, J and Rosenquist, G. (2006). China Cools with Tighter RAC Standards. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA
  5. U.S. Department of Energy. (2009). Country Report on Building Energy Codes in China.
  6. Steven Holl Architects. (2009). Linked Hybrid.
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