Canada Wood Today | The Canada Wood Group

China’s March on Zero Energy Buildings

Wei Xu

By Wei Xu

Chief Engineer of China Academy of Building Research (CABR); Director of Institute of Building Environment and Energy of CABR

September 26, 2019

The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) released a Public Notice on Technical Standard for Nearly Zero Energy Buildings on January 24, 2019. The national standard (GB/T51350–2019) will come into force on September 1, 2019, three years after being jointly developed by China Academy of Building Research (CABR), Hebei Academy of Building Research, and 59 experts from 46 research, design, product and parts manufacturing entities. It marks the world’s first national standard that clearly defines related concepts, establishes a technical system in China’s context, and presents China’s solutions for nearly zero energy buildings. The implementation will play an important role in promoting energy conservation and emissions reduction, improving the indoor environment, adjusting the energy mix, and driving the energy-saving transformation and upgrade of the building sector.

The standard widely draws on the advanced experiences of developed countries while taking into consideration to China’s climate characteristics, building types, energy use characteristics, and development trends. Based on a thorough investigation into nearly zero energy buildings demonstration projects that have been completed in China, it will provide technical criteria for higher indoor environmental comfort and energy efficiency targets, and technical support for nearly zero energy buildings with regards to design, construction, testing, evaluation, commissioning, and operation and maintenance. The technical standard for the first time defines ultra-low energy buildings, nearly zero energy buildings, and net-zero energy building; specifies binding targets, including indoor environmental parameters and building energy efficiency indicators; and proposes corresponding technical performance indicators, technical measures, and evaluation methods, as well as nearly zero energy buildings calculation and evaluation tools. The standard will play an important role in regulating ultra-low energy buildings and nearly zero energy buildings markets, improving design levels and work and living environments, promoting energy conservation and emission reduction, and guiding related higher engineering standards and product standards.

In fact, China started the Nearly Zero Energy Buildings pilot through international science & technology co-operation projects, such as the 2002 China-Switzerland co-operation on ultra-low energy buildings, the British Zero Carbon Pavilion and the German Hamburg House at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. Since 2011, with the support of MOHURD and the German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development (BMVBS), the Science and Technology and Industrialization Promotion Centre and the German Energy Agency (DENA) have applied German technologies to building energy efficiency demonstration projects, including Zaishuiyifang (riverside housing) in Qinhuangdao, Hebei Province, Xishutingyuan (garden-style housing) in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, and the office building of Hebei Building Technology R&D Center. Since 2013, the Building Energy Efficiency Working Group of China-US Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) has carried out research and co-operation on energy-saving technologies for nearly zero energy buildings and net-zero energy building. The completed demonstration projects, such as nearly zero energy buildings for CABR and Xingye (Zhuhai) have produced great energy-saving effects and extensive social impacts. Through international co-operation projects, we have learned and explored the nearly zero energy buildings technology system in line with China’s national conditions.



China’s commitment under the Paris Agreement targets a carbon dioxide emissions peak in 2030. By that year, it plans to reduce carbon intensity of GDP by 60-65 percent from the 2005 level. It is supported by China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), which includes cutting emissions in the construction industry.

China’s taking measures to make its buildings more energy efficient through development of a high-performance building system. The goal is to adopt increasingly stringent standards for new construction and energy efficiency retrofits for existing buildings. By 2020, China plans to increase the share of green buildings in new construction to 50 percent.