Mark Ginsberg

It is hard to imagine that nine million people live in Weifang, China. The metropolitan area is very spread out with clusters of medium rise office and apartment buildings and retail centers. But there are still large expanses of open land and other large, old-fashioned housing. A number of fields and older industrial parks are interspersed. New, gleaming towers grow in between. It is a city of nine million that looks like it could infill with density to become even more populous.

In my meetings and tour of the city, the mayor, vice mayor, senior staff and business leaders have great pride and ambitions to be an even better city—indeed, a greener city. The agreement they signed with USGBC in December is just the latest manifestation of that commitment. 

The strategic agreement between Weifang and USGBC is designed to accelerate greater adoption of green buildings while strengthening and encouraging robust green city principles and practices. Weifang has also agreed to be one of the pilot cities of the China-US Eco-Cities program between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Rural Development (MOHURD). They also approved Wei Jianping, an associate professor at the Weifang University and a secondee at the city construction department, as a visiting scholar with Brookhaven National Lab, to work on modeling with Vatsal Bhatt, who was DOE’s technical lead on the Eco-Cities project. Dr. Bhatt is now consulting with USGBC to develop a green cities strategy and will continue to help implement the USDOE-MOHURD-USGBC joint Eco-Cities effort. 

Bhatt and Wei were instrumental in helping USGBC establish the agreement with Weifang. To solidify the partnership, Li Guangdong, Director General of the Bureau of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, and Lu Bo, chief engineer, have established a contact office for cooperation with USGBC. And with Bhatt and Wei helping to arrange my visit to Weifang, the government and enterprise leaders provided a gracious welcome, briefing and tour. All were very engaged, asked a number of questions, and seemed impressed by the value of LEED. The group was particularly impressed by the success story of the Empire State Building achieving LEED certification and understood how even conservative business leaders appreciate the benefits of LEED. 

With city leadership, I visited several projects that, if expanded to future construction, could indeed make Weifang a leading green city. 

  • The first was the Sunjia project with 28 high rise buildings for 1750 families and room for 850 more in buildings that are planned. They include a central ground source heat pump system for heating and cooling all the units. There are several types of solar water heaters on the roofs and outside walls of each apartment. Units have a number of energy efficiency features, including LED lights, dual pane windows, and low energy bills. The project received 2 Stars under the China Green Building Energy Rating System. Now that he knows about LEED, Mr. Zhang Guang Hui, the project’s executive, said he will consider utilizing LEED in the next suite of buildings.
  • The Shang Yang project is designed to include 1 million square meters of residential space.  It is 60% complete.  It is an integrated mid-rise apartment community with its own ground source heat pump company. Each building has a decentralized GSHP system with pipes extending 150 meters below the parking areas. It too has several types of solar water heating, efficient lighting and low energy costs for tenants. Outdoor lights are PV-powered LED systems.  Mr. Zhao was at the morning briefing with enterprises that I spoke to and he said, now that he has learned about LEED, he is willing to consider it in the next phase.

When I met with Vice Mayor Xia Fangchen before dinner on Thursday, we spoke about the city’s interest in doing more than signing a paper. They welcome the support of USGBC and our member companies. I described the importance of leadership that was demonstrated by the greening of the White House under President Clinton and the remodeling of the Empire State Building by a very conservative businessman. Both set good examples and I suggested the city might consider certifying one of its public buildings as a showcase. The vice mayor suggested I look at their city hall. It is a large building that is about 15-20 years old. That is often a prime time for “refreshing” a building. USGBC will consider how to evaluate the building to see if it is a good candidate to be retrofitted and serve as a model for the city. 

One thing is certain: USGBC and the city of Weifang will continue to develop concrete engagements to further their strategic alliance, and will work closely with partners both in the United States and China to advance the cause of green buildings and green cities.