Wooden Frame Construction: A Pilot Project for Self-Built Homes in Rural China

By: Lance Tao

Export Development Program, Canada Wood Group

As rural China evolves, the Nantong Rural Self-Build House Project developed by Ningbo Free Trade Zone Xitong International Trading Co., Ltd., and supported by the Canada Wood Group, is a response to the changing dynamics of rural living and the vision of future villages outlined by the Chinese government.

Rural Transformation

Since the economic reforms of 1978, rural China has seen significant transformations, particularly in the size and complexity of housing. This change is attributed to evolving family structures, economic activities, and the impact of migration. In the mid-2000s, the Chinese government began advocating for the modernization of villages. This initiative evolved into the national rural revitalization strategy, introduced at the 19th CPC National Congress in 2017. The strategy aims to achieve basic modernization of agriculture and rural areas by 2035, and by 2050, it envisions strong agriculture, beautiful countryside, and prosperous farmers. A crucial element of this strategy is rural construction, focusing on providing quality homes for rural residents.

China’s “homestead land” or zhaijidi, rural land designated for housing, covers over 11 million hectares. Despite urban migration leaving many of these lands vacant or repurposed for industrial and governmental use, there’s a resurgence in rural land development.

However, the boom in rural construction has introduced safety concerns. Traditionally, rural homes are self-built by families, often with help from extended family and neighbors, but without much knowledge of safety standards, permits, or efficient design. To address this, in 2021, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development released guidelines for the safe construction of rural housing. Further on, on Feburary 4th, 2024, the Central Committee and the State Council published its annual rural policy guidance, the first policy document in 2024 which has focused on agriculture and rural areas development.

Project Overview

To demonstrate and gauge the potential of wood framed construction in China’s rural housing market, this 94 square meter pilot house, a single-story light wood structure designed by Shanghai Lvjian Architectural Design Co., Ltd., is a result of this, thanks to 11 cubic meters of SPF lumber donated by Canfor. With its main structure complete and interior decoration in progress, the project tackles common rural development challenges such as sourcing quality materials and maintaining craftsmanship precision. Serving as a market test, it offers a viable alternative for rural housing design.

The developer will conduct additional studies on costing and viability to refine the design and business model. The Canada Wood China office will collaborate closely with the developer in this process.