A lot to bring to the table

Updated: 2013-06-22 09:00

By Cecily Liu and Yang Yang (China Daily)

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To understand Benoy's rapid China expansion, one must examine the country's breakneck speed of urbanization.

China's urban population was only 18 percent in 1978 when the country first started to move away from a planned economy, but in 2011 urban dwellers outnumbered rural dwellers for the first time, reaching 51.3 percent.

China's urbanization has in effect completed many European countries' century-long journey in a little more than 30 years. But more striking is the potential for growth, as the country advances toward the developed countries' norm of having 70 to 80 percent urban population.

This pace of change has placed immense pressure on municipal planning departments across the country, not only for housing but also infrastructure, transport and other facilities such as education and healthcare services.

A lot to bring to the table

Sue Riddlestone, CEO of BioRegional

"It is important to have an integrated approach to urban planning, as the built environment can influence people's living habits," said Sue Riddlestone, CEO and co-founder of the charity BioRegional, whose headquarters are in the UK.

Since 2005, Riddlestone's team has acted as consultant to help the Chinese developer China Merchants Property Development embed sustainability measures into a new mixed-use development comprising 8,000 homes, known as Jinshan, near the city of Guangzhou.

With BioRegional's help, the Jinshan community successfully reduced energy and water demand, and carbon emissions partly because the buildings had green features such as renewable energy sources, rain water collection and green roofs.

To improve the wellbeing of residents, a community center in Jinshan offered information about healthy eating. Meanwhile, nearby agricultural land was divided into allotments to distribute to residents so they could grow their own vegetables, Riddlestone said.

"When I visited Jinshan, I saw the residents smiling and happy, so I'm glad that the sustainability measures we helped to introduce have improved their living standards," Riddlestone said.