While much of the focus in green construction has been on technologies that use energy and water more efficiently, more attention should be paid to a building’s envelope and its human occupants.

Green building is not just technical; we need to take a human-based approach and see how construction can serve their needs,” Italian architect Massimo Roj said May 31 during the first Klimahouse China Congress held in conjunction with ISH China/CIHE in Beijing. “The end users — the people who live in the building — are the focus of this process. We need a holistic approach in architecture for green buildings. We need a different mindset.”

Roj, CEO of the Progetto CMR Global architectural firm, pointed out 54% of today’s population lives in urban areas that consume two-thirds of the world’s energy. In China, 47% of overall energy usage comes from the building industry and related energy consumption.

Saying architects must utilize “Less Ego, More Eco” (also the title of his book) in their designs, Roj emphasized the importance of green buildings. The environmental benefits, however, rank third behind the human and financial benefits of green buildings.

The financial benefits include increased productivity and efficiency of people working in green buildings, said Thomas Mur, CEO of Bolzano Exhibition Centre in Italy. Green buildings also sell at prices up to 30% higher and rent at rates up to 24% higher than other buildings.

Green buildings can reduce energy consumption by 18% to 50%, water consumption by 20% to 50% and waste production by up to 70%, he said.
“Green technologies and the building’s casing must come together,” Mur said. “It’s not just the technologies.”

The envelope — or casing — encompasses a building’s roof and roofing products, insulation, walls and ceilings, doors and gates and window glazing. It also covers prefabricated housing and building materials, which may not be good news for plumbing contractors who have seen a growing trend toward prefabbed — or pod — bathrooms in hospitals, hotels and other buildings.

Founded in 2005, Klimahouse’s objectives are to promote innovative construction that reduces energy consumption, is economically profitable, is environmentally friendly, instills a sense of well-being and promotes an international culture of sustainability. Klimahouse has produced touring trade shows in Italy since 2008, targeting technologies such as plumbing and HVAC, controls and measurement systems and renewable energies.

“Climate change is a big problem right now in our area in northern Italy and elsewhere in the world,” Mur said. “Climate change will be a huge problem in the coming years.”

China adopted its first green building standard in 2006, effective in 2008. The government improved some of the deficiencies in the standard in 2011 with an amended new standard instituted in 2014.

“The standard has been improved constantly and now covers all public and commercial buildings in China,” said Li Hong Jun, a senior engineer in the Green Building Sector of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development. “We need special standards in the future for different categories such as schools, restaurants and high-rises.”

The government plans to increase the percentage of green buildings constructed in China from 1% in 2012 to more than 25% in 2020. Additional incentives to encourage more green buildings include tax benefits, special financial services for buyers of residential green buildings and adjustments in land policies for green building projects.

Read ISH China/CIHE 2016 — Day 1 here.