Made in China: Your New (Energy-Efficient) Home

China's drive to increase buildings' energy efficiency by 50% may not be going as hoped—lax local officials are being blamed as usual—but the effort is sure to breed solutions for export around the world. One of the latest products to come out of the world's factory are energy-efficient prefab houses. To meet the latest demands of the Ministry of Construction, Fan Zhi, the founder of Beijing Taikong Panel Industry Corp., began building prefabricated homes with the hope of exporting them to America. At $37 to $49 a square foot in China, his homes haven't seen much interest in Beijing and may not for some time, but even at double the cost (taking shipping and assembly into account), Fan has been receiving a steady stream of westerners who want to ship his homes home with them, including developers from New Orleans. Makes sense and cents, at least in part: given rising energy costs and the growing urge to design greenly in the U.S., the pre-built concrete homes offer excellent insulation and economy of scale: a 7-inch-thick foam concrete panel provides the same insulating capabilities as a 6-foot-thick brick wall. And, while they're not the prettiest things, his U.S. code-friendly homes can be assembled in less than three hours, while promising to withstand hurricane-strength winds and Southern California wildfires. Still, while concrete (like prefab) is gaining popularity among some home builders, its environmental impact can be heavy, especially in China where cement mixing, like much else these days, tends to be a dirty affair...Another consideration is the potential ecological impact of shipping your new McHome all the way from Beijing to Bayonne (even if we already furnish our homes with Chinese-made furniture or drive Japanese cars). On one hand, China could be the source of new, cheap environmentally-friendly technology for the world, as it's already doing with its excellent solar panels. "Our major aim is to build a few world-class brands, just like BMW or Mercedes-Benz," Fan tells the LA Times. On the other hand, how valuable are green prefabs and other goods likely made (and shipped) at the expense of the environment? We're anxious to find out. : : China Daily and LA Times
Email Beijing Taikong Panel Industry Corp.

See also Taking the LEED in China: Beijing's Building Green, IKEA BoKlok Flatpack houses spread Swedish gospel, Could Nanoengineering Create Lower Emissions from Cement Production?, Q&A.; Getting Started with Prefab, and the prefab housing at Inhabitat and Treehugger

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