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Kevin Mo’s Blog

Measuring Temperature--LEED in China

Kevin Mo

Posted June 5, 2009

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Nine years ago, I participated in a series of workshops organized by NRDC and Carnegie Mellon on designing China's first green building (now called the Agenda 21 building). At that time, the term green building was merely known to China and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system had just taken shape a few years before. In its push for green buildings, NRDC and U.S. Department of Energy invited a group of more than 100 Chinese building officials for an unprecedented gathering in Pittsburgh.

Today, "green" has become a trendy word in China's building industry. LEED has gained enormous momentum in the mainland China in recent years, thanks in part to NRDC's pioneering work. Architects rush to the LEED-AP training sessions, eager to pay hefty fees running as high as $1000 for a two-day course. Developers desperately chase LEED certification and pay $5-6 per square meter for LEED consultants, plus $15,000 to 45,000 for the LEED project registration. LEED consulting firms have blossomed in Beijing and Shanghai. China's Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) released its own green building rating system last year.

It was estimated that over 150 projects have registered for LEED certification in China. Note, they have not been certified yet-they are still waiting for certification. Considering that China's annual new construction totals 2 billion square meters, accounting for 50% of the world's total annual new construction, there is enormous business potential in the Chinese market. Here's a bigger picture: With an existing building stock of 44 billion square meters, China estimates that it will add another 30 billion square meters by 2020. 

Having encountered a cold market response for green buildings nine years ago, I am very impressed by the LEED whirlwind, especially given that the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) hasn't officially landed in China and proposed a clear China strategy.

The message is clear: the Chinese market welcomes LEED. USGBC is like a celebrity to a red-carpet -a delayed arrival is not a fault, but rather a privilege and a necessity.

Several weeks ago, I met two USGBC officials in Beijing, two days later than we had planned. This time, the cause of their fashionably late arrival was due to swine flu and the precautionary measures instituted by China for foreign visitors. When they go through a border inspection line, their body temperatures were scanned by a remote temperature sensor.

Their visit to China is very low-key. They declined an arrangement to visit two LEED-GOLD certified facilities in Beijing, partly due to a tight schedule and also because they did not want to attract too much public attention. Rather, the purpose of the trip was educational; the USGBC wants to measure the green temperature of the Chinese market before making any public decisions on the next move-this is a market they can't afford to avoid, but also one where any missteps may be costly.

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