What really is a green office building in China?

March 20, 2012 / By  

A key theme of the 12th Five Year Plan in China is environmental protection and energy use reduction. As green becomes a prominent trend in the real estate sector, many newly constructed office buildings here have jumped on the bandwagon and started advertising their green credentials. New construction certifications go a long way towards making a building green, by requiring advanced design features. However, it is the total resource consumption during the building’s lifetime that has the biggest environmental impact. The emphasis has thus far been on developing new buildings with green design features and certification in order to make them marketable. Some might even call this “green washing”. The next step is to ensure that those buildings operate consistently in an energy efficient way. These are the real green buildings.

Processes and management practices are equally, if not more important than green design features. Proper operation and management translate into lower energy consumption over the building’s lifetime. To use the analogy of an environmentally friendly car, one would not say that a car was “sustainable” because it was designed with fuel efficient tires or electricity-saving headlights. It would be called environmentally friendly if it was fuel efficient and could drive many miles to each gallon (or kilometres to each litre) The overall impact of this car would be the amount of fuel that it consumed during its lifetime, a function of how much it was driven.

In China today we are seeing a lot of “eco-bling”. The main focus for a building’s construction and management should be process driven rather than feature-driven. Rather than installing a complicated new design feature that may be operationally inefficient, existing technologies should be optimised to perform in the best possible way. To read more on this topic, our upcoming white paper on green office buildings in Shanghai will explore these issues in-depth.

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