The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, says a Chinese proverb. One journey within China's green building quest now begins in Zhejiang province, with the Sustainable Energy Technology Center at the University of Nottingham Ningbo (CSET) -- the first "zero emission" building in China. Designed by Mario Cucinella Architects (MCA), the strikingly angular five-story CSET building provides "a living textbook" for research of some of the latest energy efficient technologies. It's estimated that the building will reduce coal use by 448.9 tons and carbon emissions by 1081.8 tons over the next 25 years.
How those numbers were determined, along with much else about the building, remains unclear. (How for instance are the architects and engineers defining "zero emissions"?) What is clear, however, is that China needs low energy emitting buildings. For some evidence of why, check out the (less than clear) sky in the pictures after the jump.Green Credentials
Alongside an array of photovoltaic cells around the building (with batteries that can store two weeks' worth of electricity), the building boasts geothermal energy, which is used to cool and heat the floor slabs. A double skin of glass -- with screen printing of the area's historical buildings -- offers reduced solar radiation. Materials are locally sourced, and there's a gray water and rainwater recycling system. A large rooftop opening brings natural light to all floors of the building simultaneously creating a flue effect to allow efficient natural ventilation.
According to Bologna-based Mario Cucinella Architects, who is known for its sustainable focus, the building is designed so that it's electrical energy needs for cooling are only 7-8 kWhr /m2 a year.
The 1,300 square meter building hosts a visitors center, research laboratories and classrooms for masters courses. Sitting in a large meadow alongside a stream that runs through the campus, its design is inspired by Chinese lanterns and traditional wooden screens.
This isn't the first interesting piece of architecture in China's Zhejiang province: Chinese architecture tourists and students have begun flocking to the awesome the pavilion park at Jinhua. Hopefully, this sustainable building will become a part of students' itineraries.
The need for green
It may not look like it, but, as I've written before, China is getting serious about green building. And given the amount of construction going down, and the pollution going up, it better be. (Check out, for instance, this good and sobering interview with construction enthusiast Thomas Campenella in the latest Metropolis.)
China's other green buildings
If it is truly green -- and we need to be a little suspicious -- the Ningbo project joins a short list of some pretty cool green edifices. Aside from Mario Cucinella's previous China outing, the Sino-Italian Ecological Energy-Efficient Building (SIEBB) demonstration project at Tsinghua University in Beijing, there's a demo project by the Ministry of Science and Technology in Beijing, the Olympic Village, the Taige Serviced Apartments in Shenzhen, Beijing's Century Prosper Center and Steven Holl's unfinished Linked Hybrid.
There is also of course the ambitious and near-mythic Dongtan eco-city project near Shanghai. Closer to completion is Guangzhou's "zero energy" skyscraper by SOM (it's more likely going to be "half energy" by the end).
As elsewhere, for now green buildings in China remain the province of governments, multinationals and wealthy homebuyers. The Ningbo building, which will serve as a center for research and teaching, was built as part of a proposed Virtual Academy for Sustainable Cities outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding signed in January 2008 by the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
We'll be following the "zero emission" project and other green building developments closely, and with considerable hope.
Sina.com: China's First Zero Carbon Emissions Building (Chinese)