Better Cities, Better Lives in China and Australia


It has been a busy year of cross-cultural exchanges in the green building sector between China and Australia writes Romilly Madew.

In 2010, there was no better symbol of the symbiotic relationship between Australia and China than the Australian Pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai. The pavilion’s bold, sculptural form acknowledged our ancient landscape while showcasing some of Australia’s green innovations to an audience of more than 7 million, mainly Chinese, visitors.
Three members of the Green Building Council of Australia, Bovis Lend Lease, BlueScope Steel and Aurecon, were involved in the design, project management, construction and supply of materials for the Australian Pavilion, which included green building features such as 40 square metres of solar panels supplying hot water for the kitchen and wash areas, a rainwater harvest system, recyclable steel cladding, high-efficiency sensor fans and smart lighting.
The theme of the 2010 World Expo, ‘Better City, Better Life’ went to the heart of many of the challenges faced by both our nations. The Chinese are well aware that hyper- urbanisation, pollution and congestion are making their cities unsustainable. However, they are positive that they can transform their cities. Likewise, Australians are waking up the realities of unsustainable development, population growth, transport gridlock and one of the world’s largest per capita environmental footprints.
Furthermore, our green building industries have much in common. The GBCA, for instance, was created to capitalise on the knowledge gained creating the ‘Green Olympics’ in Sydney in 2000. A similar transformation has occurred in China, with the Beijing Olympic Development Authority being created to drive lessons from greening the 2008 Olympics.
The GBCA already has much experience and expertise in green building, having grown

from a zero base to more than 900 members in just eight years. The Council has certified more than 280 Green Star projects around Australia. A further 442 projects are currently registered and 76 being processed – taking the number of projects aspiring to Green Star ratings to well above 500.
Similarly, the demand for green building technology is on the rise in China, with the country expected to be home to half the world’s building construction between now and 2020. China is presently building around 2 billion square metres of new buildings each year. According to the United National Environment Program, more than 80 percent of the construction in China is categorised as high-energy buildings. By 2050, 73 percent of China’s population is expected to live in cities. Today, less than 45 percent do. That equates to moving 371 million people in the next 40 years, based on China’s current population figures.
Without intervention, building-related energy consumption is predicted to double in this time. This has led Chinese authorities to establish a range of environmentally friendly building plans and policies, which in turn is creating opportunities for Australian businesses offering green products and services. A wide range of Australian businesses have already achieved success in China, such as PTW Architects, co- designer of the award-winning energy-efficient ‘Watercube’ National Swimming Centre, which was a landmark at the Beijing Olympic Games.
Recognising these synergies, the GBCA and the China Green Building Council (ChinaGBC) signed a memorandum of understanding in 2008 which outlined how enhanced co-operation could accelerate the uptake of green buildings in China for the economic, environmental and social benefit of both countries.
A strong working relationship between the two nations has emerged, and in 2010 the two councils have shared information about best practice green building, organised business exchanges and are working together to progress ChinaGBC to full membership of the World Green Building Council.

It is evident that both green building industries have much to learn from each other. Australia is already recognised as a world leader in the design of green building technologies, systems and approaches. Conversely, China is leading the world in the development of eco-cities, with cities such as Tangshan using thermal power from the ground, wind power from the coast, solar power for energy, as well as recycling garbage and water. Similarly, Tianjin Eco City has created its own green building code, which outlines six mandatory requirements.
As part of World Green Building Week in September 2010, the GBCA hosted a senior delegation of Chinese policy makers, researchers, architects and engineers led by the ChinaGBC.
The business exchange, which was supported by Lend Lease and Austrade, provided our Chinese counterparts with training, green building tours and high-level meetings to build upon the flourishing relationship.
One of the buildings inspected by the delegation was Grocon’s Pixel building in Melbourne, which recently achieved a 6 Star Green Star – Office Design v3 rating and the highest ever Green Star score of 105.
Pixel is a world first, not just an Australian first, and we believe it will lead the way in terms of carbon neutrality and sustainability for years to come. The project team behind Pixel was determined to build a prototype of a future green office, and integrated dozens of smart and sustainable features into the design. An extensive photovoltaic array on the roof, mounted on a tracking device to improve output by 40 percent, for instance, is combined with the first commercial application of the most efficient 1kW wind turbines currently in production. Both features enable Pixel to generate more electricity than it consumes.grocon_pixel_building_web_
Similarly, the project team spent 12 months working with Boral Concrete to develop a new structural concrete with significantly reduced embodied carbon and an emphasis on recycling. Concrete is one of the most carbon-intensive products produced in the world, with Portland cement accounting for nearly 6 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions every year. The result is ‘Pixelcrete’, a special concrete, which uses 60 percent less cement and contains 100 percent recycled and reclaimed aggregate.
*Grocon’s 6 Star Green Star Pixel building in Melbourne.
Another standout innovation used in Pixel is the anaerobic digester installed on the ground level. Comprised of a tank system which holds all of the blackwater waste from toilets and kitchen facilities, the digester extracts methane from the waste. The gas harvested is then used to replace natural gas for heating and cooling the water system, while the blackwater waste remaining is sent to the sewer in liquefied form, and with reduced methane levels. This result means that Pixel both limits methane emissions and avoids the need for fossil fuel gas to boost the solar hot water system.

The Chinese delegation was very impressed with Australia’s green building capabilities, but it is most certainly not a one-way street. The business exchange also offered great opportunities for Australian companies to learn more about how China is greening its built environment, as well as strengthen international relationships and establish partnerships with kindred companies as they transform China’s property industry.
We are excited by the opportunities for Australian and Chinese collaboration, and have recently commenced work with Austrade on a program of activities to boost Australia’s presence in Chinese and other international markets.
The Green Building Council of Australia and Austrade have surveyed members to understand their current international footprint and future international aspirations in order to provide them with information on new business opportunities and key players in a range of international markets. The relationship will also help Austrade to gain further understanding of Australia’s green building capabilities to help us capitalise on one of the world’s fastest growing industries. 

*Romilly Madew is the Green Building Council of Australia’s Chief Executive.


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