An Australian Trade Commissioner based in Shanghai points to the manifold export opportunities created by China's ongoing green building boom.

Efforts by China to alleviate the environmental degradation caused by the country’s multi-decade development boom promise to bring massive export opportunities to members of Australia’s sustainability and green building sectors.

While China’s breakneck economic growth has caused hazardous levels of environmental degradation in many parts of the country, Beijing appears to be keenly aware of these problems, and is fast adopting concerted measures to address these issue.

Chief amongst them is a push on the part of both national and local government to foster green building throughout China, in order to alleviate the strain placed on the environment by the construction and operation of the country’s built assets.

In 2006 China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) released the country’s first Green Building Evaluation Criteria, marking the start of earnest efforts by the government to spur the creation of more sustainable and efficient built environments.

Over the following decade government backing has spurred little short of a green building boom in the Middle Kingdom, with the total area of recently completed green buildings in China reaching 100 million square metres last year.

Liu Bing, Shanghai-based Trade Commissioner at the Australian Trade Commission, points to other ongoing efforts by local governments throughout China to spur the creation of greener and more sustainable built environments within their own jurisdictions.

These include the Green Building Three Year Action Plan (2014 – 2016) developed by the Shanghai Green Building Council (SGBC) – the peak body for sustainable urban development in China’s most populous city.

Measures outlined by the Three Year Plan include the requirement that a one to three star rating be applied to all new buildings in Shanghai, and the provision of green building subsidies of 60 yuan per square metre of floor space up to a maximum of 6 million yuan per project.

Just to the north of Shanghai in Jiangsu – an eastern coastal province with a population more than 79 million strong, local government recently issued China’s first provincial regulations for spurring the development of green buildings.

The Jiangsu Province Green Building Development Regulations provide a range of incentives for the construction, procurement and operation of green buildings, as well as mandate that new construction projects must obtain one-star green building ratings in order to win approval from local regulators.

The regulations also make project owners and design entities liable to fines should the construction process fail to comply with green building requirements.

The upshot of this green building push on the part of both China’s national and local governments is the creation of manifold export opportunities for Australian sustainability and efficiency companies – particularly in the wake of the historic free trade agreement sealed by the Abbott government with Beijing in June.

Liu points to a broad range of sectors where opportunities are likely to arise as a result of China’s ongoing green building drive.

“Key opportunities will emerge alongside the development of China’s green building industry,” said Liu. “Specific opportunities exist for companies offering a range of services and technologies.”

According to Liu these areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Architecture and design theory and green building practices
  • Operation and supervision of energy conservation in large public buildings and energy conservation services markets
  • Water and wastewater management
  • Special eco-technologies for green building, such as geothermal heat pumps
  • Advanced building cooling equipment, such as maglev chillers
  • Systems to enable the recycling of building materials
  • Renewable energy sources

Entering the Chinese market will not be without difficulties or pitfalls for green building practitioners from Australia, however.

One such challenge is the disparity in green building criteria between China and the rest of the world, and the need for overseas entrants to adapt to a different set of domestic standards as well as disparate local conditions.

“International standards are not often recognised in the market and suppliers are required to adhere to Chinese standards,” said Liu. “Although China introduced LEED and BREEAM back in 2005, it has developed its own green building standard – the Three Star System – for both residential and public buildings respectively.

“It is out belief that suppliers will comply with the Chinese standard as it is designed for the China market environment, including high energy demand, land use regulations and water conservation issues.”

Vying against intense competition will also pose a challenge to Australian entrants to the Chinese market – particularly given the home ground advantage enjoyed by domestic companies, and the country’s fast accelerating pace of innovation.

“Local companies have been quick to innovate or improve on the existing available technologies,” said Liu. “For example, Chinese companies are actively developing and building integrated solar systems for export around the world.”

Despite these challenges, companies from Australia and elsewhere are already enjoying roaring success in the China’s green building and sustainability market, making pivotal contributions to a number of landmark projects.

Australian steel manufacturer BlueScope Steel managed to create China’s first 3-star rated industrial green building in the historic central Chinese capital of Xi’an within a period of just 18 months. The new plant combines advanced steel manufacturing with sustainable development technology.

Aurecon was responsible for the design of the bioclimatic transparent façade of Shanghai Tower – the tallest skyscraper in China. The façade helped Shanghai Tower to obtain a LEED Gold pre-certification from the United States Green Building Council, as well as a Green Three-Star China Award from the China Green Building Committee.