The Chinese Building Industry is experiencing an unprecedented boom as China’s economy rapidly grows. This has direct consequences on China’s green house gas emission (GHG) levels resulting from the use of energy in buildings. GBPN works in partnership with the Energy Foundation China on a specific programme of research activities to help decision-makers craft building energy performance policy-packages that can improve the energy performance of new and existing buildings in China, and contain the growth of CO2 emissions from buildings.

Regional Overview

What is the mitigation potential?
While data about energy use in Chinese buildings is difficult to access, it is estimated that buildings currently account for almost 25% of China’s energy use.
Without carrying out specific energy efficiency measures, China will face a growth of almost 160% in buildings’ energy use by 2050. If current policy trends are followed up to 2050 (Our Vision), the projected growth of CO2 emissions in China will increase to 1.6 Gt however, if a “deep” scenario is implemented this can be reduced by half to 0.84 Gt by 2050. This means that despite the expected growth seen by the Chinese building sector, implementing the Deep Path strategy would enable its buildings’ energy demand and associated GHG emissions, to be maintained almost at today’s levels.  
A rapid growth of the Chinese building’s stock
From 1995 to 2005, China’s building stock nearly tripled, and it is expected to nearly triple again by 2030. China is currently experiencing a significant increase of new buildings, which represents over 2 billion square meters every year. In other words, much of the building stock that will exist in two decades is yet to be built.

The building sector’s growth evidently results from its demographic and evolutions. According to statistics, from 1996 to 2008 approximately 130 million rural residents left rural areas to settle down in cities, leading to a decline in the rural population from 850 million to 720 million. As much as the building sector will continue to boom, it is nearly inconceivable to measure its magnitude.

Nowadays, heating, cooling, and water heating are provided to hundreds of millions who previously lacked thermal comfort. In parallel with the fundamental change in residential housing, the world’s largest economy with its whole building infrastructure is currently being created. This impedes a large growth in energy use for buildings.
Building Energy Performance policies in China
While it is clear that building energy efficiency policies in China have been developed within the country’s unique political, economic and cultural context, it is nonetheless equally evident that the success of energy efficiency policies in China is critical, not only to the energy security and sustainable development of China itself, but indeed of the entire world and that many good lessons can be learned from this development. In order to support and enhance the mitigation potential of such a growing building sector, it is fundamental to develop policy packages and to set building energy efficiency codes that will limit energy consumption and the related CO2 emissions.
Since the early 1980s, China has been actively promoting building energy efficiency with an increasing concern for sustainable development, national energy security and a growing interest in pursuing a low-carbon economy. The first mandatory national building energy code, for new residential buildings in cold and severe cold regions was adopted in 1986. China’s building codes have significantly evolved during the past decade, having set out mandatory and voluntary energy efficiency measures for both commercial and residential buildings. Some of these codes are tailored to specific climate zones. The Chinese central government’s growing emphasis on code enforcement and compliance has driven major energy efficiency improvements. Some of the current codes are being revised and new improvements are being prepared.
China’s central and local governments have recognised the urgent need to improve building energy efficiency, through the adoption of both regulatory policies (i.e., building codes) and market-based and financial policies (i.e., building energy labels and incentives).  Although energy labelling (e.g., appliance energy information labels) has been an important policy tool in China’s energy efficiency efforts, whole-building energy labelling is relatively new and still voluntary.  There are currently two domestic building energy-labelling programmes: the Green Building Evaluation and Labelling (GBEL) Programme and the Building Energy Efficiency Evaluation and Labelling (BEEL) Programme.

Our activities in China

The GBPN Chinese programme aims at facilitating international exchange of knowledge and expertise on best-practice policies for low energy, carbon and energy efficient buildings in China. We provide a common platform to identify and translate Chinese best practices for global dissemination, facilitate Chinese and international knowledge exchange and capacity building. In partnership with the Energy Foundation China, we support Chinese institutions to identify and achieve the abatement potential of the Chinese building sector.

The GBPN has identified several priority initiatives:

  • Improve building code enforcement
  • Expand policies to accelerate existing building retrofit
  • Demonstrate potential for low-energy buildings through validation of building energy performance

Recent Research includes:

  • Investigating applicable international best practices for ESCO business models for building energy efficiency retrofitting
  • A review of Building Energy Efficiency Policies in China made in collaboration with ACEEE and Chinese Experts.
  • A Regional high-level briefing from the business community on opportunities and barriers to implementing energy efficiency policies at scale.

Related news

Related Report Bundles

Team members


Deep Renovation or Deep Energy Renovation is a term for a building renovation that captures the full economic energy efficiency potential of improvements. This typically includes a focus on the building shell of existing buildings in order to achieve very high-energy performance. The renovated building consumes 75% less primary energy compared to the status of the existing building before the renovation. The energy consumption after renovation for heating, cooling, ventilation, hot water and lighting, is less than 60 kWh/m2/yr. (Definition often used in Europe) [Source: GBPN, 2012]

The calculated or measured amount of energy needed to meet the energy demand associated with a typical use of the buildings, which includes inter alia, energy used for heating, cooling, ventilation, hot water and lighting (EU). [Source: EPBD recast, 2010/31/EU]

A natural or legal person that delivers energy services and/or other energy efficiency improvement measures in a user’s facility or premises, and accepts some degree of financial risk in so doing. The payment for the services delivered is based (either wholly or in part) on the achievement of energy efficiency improvements and on the meeting of the other agreed performance criteria. [Source: ESD, 2006/32/EC]

NZEB are buildings that over a year are neutral, meaning that they deliver as much energy to the supply grids as they use from the grids. Seen in these terms they do not need any fossil fuel for heating, cooling, lighting or other energy uses although they sometimes draw energy from the grid. [Source: IEA (Laustsen J.) (2008) Energy Efficiency Requirements in Building Codes, Energy Efficiency Policies for New Buildings.]