US firm targets smart development

Updated: 2013-09-02 11:02

By Caroline Berg in New York (China Daily)

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US firm targets smart development

GreenbergFarrow's development project in a city in China's southern region includes plans for a 225-meter-tall office tower. Provided to China Daily

China has more than 650 cities. The United States has fewer than 300. One American architectural firm recently set up an office in Shanghai to tap the potential in the country's rapidly developing second, third and even fourth-tier cities.

"I see this market really, really maturing and growing in the next 20 years," said Rodney Abney, Jr, a principal at GreenbergFarrow and head of the firm's Shanghai office. "I think it's a place we have to be to carry GreenbergFarrow forward to the next life cycle phase of the firm."

GreenbergFarrow is an architectural, planning, engineering and development consulting firm based in Atlanta, Georgia, with offices throughout the US. The firm officially opened its China office on Aug 1 and also opened an office this year in Mexico City.

"We've definitely seen demand," Abney said about US architecture firms entering China. "There's quite a lot of opportunity, in spite of the challenges that come with working in a different market."

Establishing a presence in China came directly from the firm's participation in a Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce trade mission in 2012. Contacts made during the mission led to its first project - a roughly 2.75 million square-meter, mixed-use project in a second-tier city in central China.

It is a massive, massive project," Abney said. "The client came to us for our retail expertise, which we're well known for here in the US."

Founded in 1974 and now among the top 10 retail design firms in the US, GreenbergFarrow has worked with prominent clients, including Whole Foods Market, IKEA, Wal-Mart, Gap Inc, Bed Bath & Beyond and Meijer.

Abney said the project in central China is at the conceptual stage. The development will be a two-level shopping outlet with more than 500 stores, ranging from small boutique shops to large brand name anchors. The complex will also include residential towers with 1,400 residential units and hotel accommodations with a total of 800 rooms.

After entering a design contest, GreenbergFarrow won its second multi-use development project, which is also in the conceptual stage and will take place in China's southern region.

The project is Western and contemporary in style and includes office, entertainment, residential and retail components. The office and residential towers will have 360-degree views of the city. The complex will also house a television broadcast center and a multi-level conference center.

Because the project is located in a tropical region, the American firm aims to mitigate potential solar heat gain and other impacts of constant sunlight and heat, and have incorporated a series of horizontal sun shades in the design of the faade. The reduced heat will not only lower cooling costs, but also the design will allow for natural light to enter the spaces within the complex.

The sustainability-minded firm has also planned a series of cascading green spaces, large and small-scale, between the ground and upper terraces, among other designs that will utilize green technologies.

"Working in China has been very exciting," Abney said. "For me, it's been a tremendous challenge and it's been tremendously satisfying to get where we're at."

(China Daily USA 09/02/2013 page2)