Complementary strategies to eco-cities for a new Chinese urbanization

Luchino, Chiara, Lenci Ruggero (2014), Complementary Strategies to Eco-cities for a New Chinese Urbanization. 中国新城市化之生态城市的互补策略, Department of Civil, Building and Environmental Engineering, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy

Abstract

The article highlights the need for urban renewal and re-use of the existing housing in Chinese cities, in combination with the current “eco-cities” trend, in view of an expected new urbanization. Buildings’ regeneration would be one of the main factors leading to sustainable growth in China, as happened in Europe.

According to the 2013 ECFIN report, the progressive Chinese Government’s reduction of the restrictions related to the registration permit system (“hukou”, 户口), is likely to be accompanied by an urban migratory wave. Higher

migratory flows would foster an increasing housing demand. This demand would also be influenced by the recent policies adopted in Chinese cities – for example, in Beijing and Shanghai “second child” policies have been implemented.

However, urbanization comes at a cost. China is now in the middle of an environmental crisis with its epicenter in the cities. On the contrary, in the cities’ outskirts, the “eco-cities” are often not economically affordable for the majority and remain frequently uninhabited (“ghost towns”). The current “eco-city” trend is already trying to face pollution with many projects for entire new districts and completely sustainable neighborhoods, sometimes reproductions of European architecture models.

In this scenario, building renovation may play a key role, being far more ecological and sustainable than the entire new construction process. In addition, the increasing surplus of old, small, vacant dwellings within Chinese cities and by forecasts the U.S. Energy Information Administration on the buildings increasing energy consumption confirm the need for a more in-depth reorganization of the Chinese housing asset.

This is in line with what happened in Europe, where the logic of indiscriminate urban expansion was abandoned in the last decades. With a qualitative transformation, facing the residential discomfort, Europe has become the scenario of various measures of housing sustainable renewal.

Combining the main characteristics of Chinese eco-cities with European best practices of housing renewal, and adapting them to the Chinese urban context, is crucial for a sustainable city growth. In such a complex process, with migrants coming from peasant environments, housing design might be nature-oriented with references to rural elements to make it more “familiar” for the new residents.

The main purpose of the research is to give an overview of the necessity for China to regenerate city assets in order to meet the expected housing demand over the next years. This research is supported by explicative graphics and analyses based on the data of the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics. In parallel, as a complement of the research, it will be reported a few examples of the main European renewal methodologies, drafting a possible starting point for a renovation plan and focusing the problem from an architectural point of view.

The study opens up to the Green Architectonic Renovation in China, where sharing best practices and adapting them to the context are the key factors for future urban renewal.

Read the full text on Reasearchgate


Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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