May 1, 2012
China craves green infrastructureBY LEE ANN KNUDSEN
The numbers on China’s transition to a developed nation are staggering; its economy is 55 times larger than the nation’s 1980 gross domestic product, and its current growth rate is the envy of the world at over eight per cent. Massive programmed migration from China’s countryside to its urban centres fuels the nation’s productivity.
The country’s dynamic energy was on display at the recent Green Building China exhibition and conference, known as GBC2012, held last March in Shanghai. Since China’s economy opened up in 1978, the country has seen a construction boom. Visitors to Shanghai cannot miss the forest of construction cranes, building commercial space as well as homes for the millions of Chinese adopting urban lifestyles.
China developed fast, but without the environmental safeguards found in the west. Severe air pollution continues to spread a permanent haze over China’s cities.
China’s economic planners are moving ahead with development, but to address environmental and other pressures, China’s leaders have decided to manage growth by creating more than 500 new urban centres, with populations of 1.5 million each. “Green” is hot, as the new cities are being planned with integral, extensive and mandatory green infrastructure.
Exhibitors at GBC2012 tailored their product offerings to the new mandate for green growth. Many landscape architecture firms, aware of the funding to be allocated for environmentally sensitive urban planning, constructed large, high-style exhibits. Wood-plastic composites for fences and decking were heavily promoted, as well.
One high-profile exhibitor was Canada Wood, a promotion effort from Canada’s forest industry. While wood construction is uncommon in China, the campaign is trading on wood’s green characteristics, as well as Canada’s reputation for quality, to sell to China’s domestic market.
Visitors to China cannot help but notice the country’s economic engine is no longer export-dominated. Its growing population, with improved living standards and higher expectations, has created massive domestic demand. China’s ambitious plan to build hundreds of new, green cities from the ground up is a clear opportunity for companies able to deliver the right goods. Canadians are well familiar with the green industry product solutions that will be required; the scale of the enterprises is another matter.
The next edition of Green Building China, www.greenbuildingchina.com, takes place Sept. 13-14 at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre.