Green Rural Construction: Project Visit to Zero House

By: Siqi Chen

Specialist, FII China

On March 11, the FII China team visited Ling She (or “Zero House” in English) located in Banbidian village in the suburbs of Beijing. The project was completed in 2019 with a floor area of 402.34 square meters. Through reconstruction of a rural residential house, the project was designed to improve the living environment and achieve energy self-sufficiency. Zero House is the first nearly zero energy building certified by the National Technical Standards for Nearly Zero Energy Building (GB/T51350-2019) in China. The visit was organized in partnership with China Society of Building Materials Industry Economy (CSBMIE), a key advisor to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in the building materials sector. During the visit, FII China met with the team that designed Zero House, which was led by Dr. Ren Jun from Tianjin Tianyou Architectural Design.

To achieve net zero energy, the house employs passive strategies to minimize energy usage, utilizing solar radiation, a super thermal insulation envelope, air tight units and a thermal-bridge-free design to control the demand for heating in winter. With a courtyard that divides the building into three parts, the air-tightness units connect with the passive house and stairwell wind tower to enhance heat absorption in winter and guide the natural ventilation in transitional seasons. The house uses multiple forms of solar energy including photovoltaic tiles and colored photovoltaic films to provide power for the building.

To explore zero energy techniques in different structures, the house adopts three different structures including the original brick-wood structure, the composite model comprising of a light steel system with OSB board, and the wood frame structure built with Canadian SPF.

As a research project overseen by the Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission, Zero House is an example of energy-efficient rural residential buildings. In addition to Zero House, the village is the focus of a series of smart renovations and on-going pilot projects organized in collaboration with universities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region, such as the solar panel road that can power streetlamps and EV charging piles. Through digital and green transformation, the stakeholders hope to improve living conditions for local residents, and attract young entrepreneurs to bring a new vitality to the area.

Green development is an essential part of rural revitalization, a national strategy China has developed to improve rural areas. The Strategic Plan for Rural Revitalization (2018-2022) outlined priority areas to improve the aesthetics of buildings, and the ecological living environment for rural villages, with clean and healthy ecosystems. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) also announced that the plan to reach a carbon peak for urban and rural construction will be released soon.

In rural areas, MOHURD set a new direction for building green and low-carbon villages, outlining key tasks such as the construction of low-carbon residential buildings and increasing the use of renewable energy sources. In this regard, Zero House is a good example of a green and low-carbon rural house. In addition, by integrating passive and active energy saving technologies, the project demonstrates a systematic approach to energy-efficiency, which offers a good reference for potential demonstration projects in China that can showcase low-carbon building solutions from Canada.

During the visit, a seminar was held to exchange ideas on opportunities for green and low-carbon construction in rural areas. FII China will continue to work with CSBMIE to engage with MIIT through an upcoming series of activities and events that will promote green building materials in pilot projects for rural areas of a number of different provinces in China. Wood building materials are expected to have a bigger role to play in rural China as green development and carbon neutrality targets drive a growing demand for green solutions.