The series moves to China, whose soaring population and rapid industrialization have created a boom in urbanization that is unprecedented in human history. To try to tackle this global issue, "China: From Red to Green?" explores green design solutions in both theory and practice, including Steven Holl's Linked Hybrid project, which will have the largest residential geothermal heating/cooling and greywater recycling system in the world upon completion. William McDonough shares his innovative plans to make China an entirely sustainable country and the ways architecture can be both profitable and environmentally intelligent.

China: From Red to Green?
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China: From Red to Green?
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China: From Red to Green?
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Steven Holl
Principal, Steven Holl Architects

Steven Holl is the principal of Steven Holl Architects, founded in New York in 1976. The firm has been recognized internationally with numerous awards, publications and exhibitions for quality and excellence in design. Holl is a tenured faculty member at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture and Planning where he has taught since 1981. In July 2001, Time Magazine named Steven Holl as one of "America's Best Architects" for "buildings that satisfy the spirit as well as the eye." Most recently, Holl was honored by the Smithsonian Institution with the 2002 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Architecture. He has exhibited widely and has published numerous texts including "Anchoring" (1989) and "Parallax" (2000).

Li Hu
Partner, Steven Holl Architects

Li Hu is a Partner and Director of Asian Projects at Steven Holl Architects. He is responsible for the "Linked Hybrid" project in Beijing and Art and Architecture Museum in Nanjing among others. He began his studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing and completed his Master in Architecture at Rice University in Houston. In 2003 he co-launched the architectural journal "32:Beijing / New York." He is currently directing their newly established office in Beijing.

Robert Watson
Senior Scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council

Rob Watson is Director of the International Energy and Green Building Projects at NRDC, one of the country's most effective environmental organizations. Recognized as the "Founding Father of LEED," Watson guided LEED to become the world's largest and fastest-growing green building standard. Since 1997, Watson has worked in China to develop national energy codes and green building standards and was the principal coordinator for a key green demonstration project in Beijing--the first building in China to receive LEED Gold Certification. For this work, Watson received the Chinese Ministry of Construction's "Green Innovation" award in 2005--the only foreigner so honored.

Linked Hybrid, which will house 2,500 people in 750 apartments covering 1.6 million square feet, is a model for large-scale sustainable residential architecture. The site will feature one of the world's largest geothermal cooling and heating systems, which will stabilize the temperature within the complex of eight buildings. A water-circulation system serves as a giant radiator in the winter and cooling system in the summer--no boilers to supply heat and no electric air conditioners to supply cool. The apartments also feature gray-water recycling. The towers are linked at the 20th floor by a "ring" of service establishments (cafes and dry cleaners), creating a self-contained community for residents. The project, scheduled for completion in 2008, will also contain a kindergarten, cinema and hotel.

-"It's not only important to make the building itself sustainable, but more importantly we want to reinvent a city."-



They use 40% of the world's energy, emit 50% of its greenhouse gases.

"They" are not the cars we drive. "They" are the buildings where we work, live, and grow. Buildings designed with an unconscious disregard for nature.

Adopting sustainable alternatives is not only a matter of progress, it's a matter of survival.

Design: e2, the economies of being environmentally conscious.




Not even the Great Wall can hold back the math. Nowhere else are the economics of being environmentally conscious more apparent than in China.

Will the country of one point three billion people be the tipping point of the Earth's environmental fate? Or will it be its savior?

Will China's unprecedented growth be the engine for extinction?

China matters so much because it's the giant economic engine and commerce is the engine of change. So the world will change most dramatically as a result of the Chinese activity.

What's happening in China is unprecedented in human history and personally I don't think we will ever see it happen again. It's the largest mass rural to urban migration in human history. Every year, 15 to 20 million people will be moving from the countryside to cities.

China will build new housing for 400 million people in the next 12 years. If you look at that in the context of the United States, that would be like rebuilding all the housing in the US in 7 years. Now if they built that with brick, in 174 jurisdictions, they would lose all their soil and burn all their coal, which means they'd have cities with no energy and no food.

JIANG YI (in Mandarin):
SUBTITLE: If we make mistakes in these next 15 years, then we will cause huge problems for the next generation. Not only for China but for the whole world. We'll cause a catastrophe because if we consume 40% of the earth's resources just on our buildings, we're doomed.

We should be concerned about China because of the material resources of the world. I mean if they don't do sustainable work, they will destroy it. They will destroy our air quality, our water quality. I think everything interchanges on the earth, everything works together as a system. Nobody is free from anybody else's pollution.

China's pollution is not just China's problem. According to an EPA study, about a quarter of the particulate matter floating over Los Angeles can be attributed to China.

And as the worlds' largest producer and consumer of coal, every two years China adds the equivalent of the country of Brazil to its power grid.

We're seeing an economy that for the last 20 years has grown at 8 to 10 percent. I mean that is an unprecedented amount of wealth grown. I mean 20 years ago 400 million people in China were living on less than a dollar a day. And that number has gone from 400 million people living on a dollar a day or less to 200 milllion. That's just almost the entire population of the United States doubling their wealth. You've got people that have been living in cold dark shacks for a long time and all of the sudden - and small, cold, dark, shacks. And all of a sudden they're getting some wealth and of course they want a bigger apartment, they want electric light, they want heat.

I think one of the huge issues is that any country that's trying to modernize will mimic the United States and it looks very seductive. I mean this world of ours that everyone sees through all the media is very attractive to people who don't have these things.

JIANG YI (In English):
SUBTITLES: In China some people are getting rich, right? So, then for the rich man, they say, oh, maybe we should improve my living standard. They learn everything from United States, from West Europe. They build similar single house, they use similar air conditioning, they use similar automatic hot water, then they consume similar amount of energy as you. And this rich people, the portion of rich people, now is getting larger and larger. So this is very dangerous, if every family do things like that, China at 1.3 billion population, then what will happen? You can guess.

I mean it would be really easy for this to come across as it's all China's fault. Which is 180 degrees from what I want to say. But as China goes, so goes the planet. That's just, too many people are doing too much stuff for that not to be the case. And the pace at which things happen will either save us, or sink us. Depending upon how quickly we help China innovate and how quickly China helps itself innovate and get these ideas into practice.

The Tsinghua University Energy Research Building is China's attempt to collate and improve on the best energy efficiency technologies the world has to offer.

JIANG YI (In Mandarin):
SUBTITLES: We've used numerous methods to try and influence builders, architects, and others in the industry to use energy efficient methods, technologies, and materials in their buildings. Now there are more than 100 technologies from all over the world installed in this building.

Open for only six months, Professor Yi, and the Energy Research Building have already received over twenty-thousand visitors. The center has also developed several new energy saving technologies, including a solar air conditioning system.

JIANG YI (In English):
SUBTITLES: The developer comes here to learn, to see and trying to copy some of the technology from this building to their own. And also there is a large group of people there, they are very good in simulation. They do lots of modeling, help people to design better performance buildings.

And this is all the different combination for BCHP machines: Building Combined Heating and Power Generation. We installed about 2,000 sensors for this building. So then students use all the computers to collect the data, to carry out some analysis. That's why, as you say it's like a very very big lab. Test bench, it's not a real building it's a test bench you could say.

From test bench to proven methods, the Accord 21 building opened in 2000, becoming the first internationally certified Green Project in China.

Accord 21 is a demonstration project that was the result of a bilateral agreement between the US government and the Chinese government. What the building has to show for that is 70% reduction in energy saving compared to standard practice, 60% reduction in the water consumption compared to the allocation from Beijing. Great indoor air quality, very high construction recycling, specification of non-toxic, local materials. A lot of really great stuff.

GUOXIANG YANG (In Mandarin):
SUBTITLE: It is hoped that what others to learn from this building is not a specific technique. Instead, it is the comprehensive integration of over one hundred techniques I made. I didn't use the most advanced techniques, but I used the ones that can best solve problems.

We all know about the shortage of electricity supply in Beijing. If our government office buildings can conserve energy, if not 70% like this building but 50% not necessarily every building doing it, as long as half of them can achieve it then not only will Beijing eliminate energy shortages, but also it can export energy.

We keep getting inspectors from the water bureau, inspectors from the energy bureau, coming, pulling out the meters, taking them apart, putting them back together and then watching to see that we're not cheating. And this has happened several times, they've come and they've inspected, they've you know probed, they've investigated and, cause nobody can believe how little water and how little energy we're using. Cause it's just been's just been unheard of.

YANG GUOXIANG (In Mandarin):
SUBTITLE: Facts speak for themselves. Previously some people were suspicious but now I have more visitors than I can attend to. Next week, the State Council of the Chinese government is going to have a meeting on the efficiency of government buildings and they will visit our building.

The government's goal is to quadruple the economy by 2020 while only doubling energy use; a conundrum only to be solved by the enforcement of green building standards.

China is beginning to implement energy efficiency standards and green buildings essentially because they have no choice and they know it. Their resource consumption is growing so fast that economically, it's really hard to keep track of. Buildings are now the largest source of water pollution across the country and the biggest consumer of clean water and so they're realizing that they just can't keep fouling their nest anymore if they want to achieve their social and economic development goals.

YANG GUOXIANG (In Mandarin):
SUBTITLE: In the future, if you pollute and if you don't save energy the government won't permit you to build. If it is built, its usage will be stopped and there will be a penalty. Of course, these things cannot be done in one day. But the government departments concerned and some policy research and legal research departments are organizing the experts to issue such regulations.

I mean it's interesting because you know everyone thinks of Communism, Totalitarian, Authoritarian, etc, well believe me, the buildings that don't comply with the standards, what you would think that you know they would be taken away and shot, no, but people just look the other way. Because what are you gonna do? The building's built and you need people, people need to go in there so that's what it is. Here, if you don't build your buildings to code, you can't occupy, by and large. So the, ironically in this free society, we're much more authoritarian in many respects than, in this particular area, than the Chinese are. But the Chinese are recognizing the importance of enforcement and it's just a huge job building up that infrastructure.

An infrastructure whose delay comes at a cost. It's estimated that between 8 and 10 percent of China's Gross Domestic Product is wasted dealing with pollution and its health effects. Tragically, one in four Chinese die from lung disease.

So, who are some of the developers taking the initiative to tackle these problems?

CHEN YIN (in Mandarin):
SUBTITLE: Modern Investment Group is a private investment company. We have invested in many projects, but most of our investments are in apartment construction. The Linked Hybrid project is very special because this is the first time that we have collaborated with American architects, and the first time that we have fully used the concepts of green construction and sustainable development to guide our design.

Designed by New York architect Steven Holl, The Linked Hybrid Project broke ground December of 2005. With views of Beijing's Forbidden City, sixty units pre-sold in the first week.

The Design not only embraced green principles, but also the basic tenets of Chinese philosophy.

We decided that because of Feng Shui principles, ancient Chinese principles, that there would be no beams in the apartments. If you're underneath a beam in Feng Shui that's terrible bad luck, so we said ok, according to Feng Shui principles we will have no beams in the apartments. That means we will have flat slabs and then that brought us to the idea of putting this structure all on the outside. So but then because we put the structure on the outside, we could deep set the windows. Now we can use the thermal mass of the concrete to temper the heating and cooling of the building making it more thermally resistant, set the windows back and get a sun shading, a natural sun shading effect from that.

There will be roughly about 650 or 700 apartment units. We are putting nearly almost all the roof and the ground, every surface making every surface landscape surface so all these roofs are covered with landscapes. So it not only provide a beautiful landscape seen from above, from the apartments, it's also making cool down all the buildings, make it very sustainable.

At the heart of this energy efficient strategy lies a heating and cooling system that taps into an infinitely renewable source: geothermal wells.

To cool and heat this large amount of buildings, almost 1.5 million square feet of apartment spaces alone, we have worked with Modern Group to devise a system that uses the ground source geothermal system to cool and heat the building.

The geothermal well goes down 100 meters to stable water temperature in that water table of 51 degrees and there's a return pipe, which always taps that 51 degrees. And at the top then there's heat exchangers that convert that into cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.

This application is, we have found today, is the largest application in the world in residential buildings. There are 600 geothermal wells going down 100 meters deep. It's an enormous amount of engineering project.

CHEN YIN (in Mandarin):
SUBTITLE: Building green, whether in China or the U.S. or other countries, will increase the cost. But Modern Group believes that China needs a new way of thinking about architecture.

It's not only important to make the building itself sustainable, in other words you use all the available technology make it a green architecture, but more importantly we want to reinvent a city.

You know one of the huge problems they've had in Beijing is that they sort of were looking at you know the segregation of residential and commercial from the US and now all of a sudden all these buildings are going up around the 4th, 5th ring road and distances for cycling which used to be 6 or 7 kilometers are now 16 or 17 kilometers. Who wants to ride their bike that far? So all of a sudden decisions that were made 20 years ago are forcing people out of bicycles and into cars and unfortunately China has glommed on to cars as being this economic engine for survival and they're driving themselves right off a cliff.

A project like this offers a new model for pedestrian oriented community, a city within a city where you have everything you need: the shops, your living, your working, your recreation, the spa, the health club. Everything is in one place so you don't need to get in your car and drive across the city.

CHEN YIN (in Mandarin):
SUBTITLE: This idea of building a mixed-use community in a city is new and is very different from the apartment buildings currently being built here.

The city fabric was being changed to you know pointing towers. We want to bring back a urban life. Want to make the building connect at different levels and they're all open and porous. So the circulation and connectivity become a central aim of the project and so all the public can come here - become a destination, almost like the Rockefeller Center in New York.

Beijing's abundance of traffic is a serious issue, but what about the shortage of the precious resource of water?

Water is a very big aspect in China, especially in Beijing. The water shortage is going to be an enormous problem in the future. But when you have an apartment building, you have all this water from washing your hands, taking showers, what we call grey water, that if you're careful you can run a separate plumbing system and reuse all that water.

We have created this large pond of about 7000 square meters large. All the gray water from 700 apartments are connected to a central processing plant over between these two towers in the basement and they're processed, and the water being pumped back to the apartments to flush toilet. Same time, also do the irrigation and also feeding the pond. In China you know as we say where there's a will, there's a way. But it won't be easy, this effort and this path, but I think you know, to save the future this is something we have to do and we're trying to, our best to set an example in this project.

Right now, the way our economic and finance system works is that most costs and benefits of everything essentially become zero within one generation. Again that is completely against physical and chemical reality. A lot of the garbage we put into the environment lasts hundreds of generations. We need to bring human rules, particularly economics, into line with physical realities.

They're toxifying China right now. Making toxic stuff and polluting everything. Then they're gonna send us the result of that. And then we'll toxify ourselves as we put it in landfills.

Well what we do in China are essentially conceptual master planning. So we do conceptions of the new cities or extensions of cities or integrations into existing cities. In a city in the South, we're proposing that the earth all be lifted up on to the roofs and the entire roof of the city become farms. It's really there as a tone poem to send out an iconic image of what it would mean for a city to still make oxygen and still make food. And then looking at all the materials underneath those roofs as safe healthy things that provide benefit for all people of all time. So it's really a deep integration of ancient culture and future culture, understanding that the problems of today need to be solved by design.

In an ideal world, our species, capable of design, would design for its future. The ideas and the technology exist today. What is needed is the desire; the desire for change manifested not only in idealists, but in the common people.

CHEN YIN (in Mandarin):
SUBTITLE: The most important factor that will advance the green movement is the education of the people and the raising of their cultural level. If the public realizes the importance of green building and demands it from the market, then this will provide the most effective push for the market.

Anyone under 30 in architecture, in practicing architecture or any design is beginning to look at this sustainability seriously. I think they have a much more holistic idea about what they want to do.

There are more designers in China than anywhere else right now. I mean it's quite surprising. There are 4,000 students in industrial design in the United States, do you know how many there are in China? 200,000. Revolutions, as Jefferson pointed out can happen when 5% of the influencers reach the tipping point. And I think in China, we're about to see 5% of the influencers reach the tipping point. So they are a totalitarian regime and once they start turning the cranks on something, it's surprising how quickly things can happen.

YANG GUOXIANG (In Mandarin):
SUBTITLE: I am quite confident. The reason: we built a garden on a roof. People are fond of it. Now, there are more than 100 roof gardens in Beijing. Thus, in China, when people realize this has to be done and to be done well, then the speed of development speed will be unimaginable.

JIANG YI (In English):
SUBTITLE: We should find some new way to meet the demand for living standard raising, but reduce energy consumption. Not follow the same approach like what the United States has there. That's terrible, not good idea. We should find some new way to go otherwise the whole globe or whole world will be crushed.

Will China's rise to world power coincide with the world's demise? Or will the culture that developed the compass steer mankind away from consuming itself? Can a country rooted in the deep belief of the Tao, that all things are connected and an equal part of each other, show us the way?



Brad Pitt

Tad Fettig

Elizabeth Westrate

Karena Albers and Tad Fettig

Lars Woodruffe

Robert Humphreys

Beth Levison

Eva Anisko
Midori Willoughby

Julie Kirsner

Adam Elend

Val Wang
Calvin Koh

Phillip G. Bernstein

Mark Decena

Eric Holland

Michael Schuler

Kurt Schlegel

William Rexer

Brad Bergbom
Donny Tam
Jiang Yue

Outsider, Inc.

Michael LaBellarte

Rene' Steinkellner

Lucas Lee Anderson
Hideaki Charles Sato

Vagabond Audio
Drew Weir

Outsider, Inc.
Christopher Mines

Aharon Bourland

Jon Gardner
Brandt Gassman
Charlie Wang

Susan Chau
Rebecca Israel
Daniel Martinez
Megan Paulus
Jeff Polley
Mary Sack

Sara Barnes
Marsha Talcin

Edward Albers
Jessica Berman-Bogdan
Reginald Curtis
Heather Morrison
Emer Nuala O'Donovan

Brian Heidelberger
Susan L. Storiale
Steven Worth

Yung Ho Chang
Brent Pickett
Eve Charlotte Bolger

The Modern Group
Monkey Rides Tiger
Steven Holl Architects
William McDonough + Partners

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China: From Red to Green?

Episode Trailer 0:30 min

China: From Red to Green?

Episode Excerpt 3:00 min