Life in the Metropolis of 20 million
Text: Anja Klaffenbach | Photos: GettyImages, China International Windoor City
China is building its future – helped by technical expertise from the Allgäu. The air pollution in and around Beijing forces the government to take action. The solution: Saving energy with more eco-friendly construction methods – and not only does this apply to building single houses, but whole new metropolitan areas! A clear case for RAICO’s passive house curtain walls …
Do you know Gaobeidian? On this question probably just as many people in China will shake their heads in astonishment as here in Europe. With its just under 600,000 inhabitants the city is a mere side issue compared to Chinese proportions, even within the province of Hebei, surrounding Chinas capital Beijing. Yet the creators of Chinas future are at work right there – and RAICO plays an important part in this scheme.
Admittedly, the idyllic town of Heidelberg is not the first thing that comes to mind when you catch sight of the industrial park
of Gaobeidian while driving across the 8-lane motorway from Beijing. And yet there are remarkable parallels. The creation of “Gaobeidian Railway City” was inspired by the model town on the river Neckar: The railway city represents the world’s biggest passive house construction project – and it is China’s pilot scheme for green building. The reason is obvious: In and around Beijing the atmosphere is literally “foul”. In particular the province of Hebei, surrounding Gaobeidian, is dominated by heavy industry and thus regarded as one of the front runners of China’s smog issue.
Bid by the highest authorities, the task in Gaobeidian is to build a cleaner future: The passive house estate in the innovation zone “Railway City” is part of an action plan of the Chinese government, created to promote an energy saving way of living and working in the China of tomorrow. “Green building” is today’s buzzword, and thanks to the desire to reduce China’s housing energy consumption, RAICO’s teaming up with the Chinese retail partner Orient Sundar produces good results: Together they are planning to install a total of 1.5 million m2 of energy saving curtain walls in passive house quality.
A spirit of excitement is tangible in the Hebei province: In April 2017 the Special Economic Zone “Xiong’an New Area” was launched on the personal initiative of Chinas President Xi Jinping. It is obvious: The capital Beijing is bursting at the seams, and in a considerable radius around the metropolitan region the polluted air is in dire need of a “breather”. The solution? Xiong’an. The city of the future is considered as a concentrate of Xi’s vision for the “New China”, with advanced technologies aimed at all aspects of living. Administration, universities, hospitals and business centres are facing a medium-term relocation from Beijing. The plan seems to be working out: By now more than 100 high-tech enterprises have moved to Xiong’an, including big players like Alibaba, Baidu or JD Finance.
Pioneer spirit is palpable everywhere in Xiong'an:“Green building” is the keynote, making the city a symbol of an eco-friendly lifestyle. Passive houses are set to be the standard in building, saving energy and thus helping to reduce emissions.
And what does the brave new world of China’s eco-friendly metropolis created on the drawing-board look like? The city of the future focusses on the human factor of its inhabitants, putting into perspective the traditional Chinese role of people as mere providers of services. Many services are envisaged to become fully automated. Shopping in checkout-free supermarkets without waiting in line, having your purchases debited on your bank account automatically, and delivered to your home by driverless cars on request. Also at the gyms of tomorrow, everything is arranged to function without “human” service. And when in an experimental project with autonomous cars the service staff comes flying in on hover boards, you can feel a touch of the movie “Back to the Future” …
The “City Makers of China” are pursuing an ambitious schedule: By 2019 high speed trains are supposed to connect the city of the future with Beijing – with a journey time of less than 30 minutes! At present about 2,000 people live in Xiong’an, while in 10 years the number is planned to increase to 8 million people. The long-term plans aim at 15 to 20 million people living and working there. On the whole the new mega city of Xiong’an is supposed to extend over 2,000km2 – not even Munich, Hamburg and Berlin put together amount to these dimensions. Maybe Xiong’an and Gaobeidian, the mega projects where RAICO is involved in China, are still dark horses, but the impressive figures demonstrate: Eco-friendly building can be a fantastic “green” driving force for the whole economy.
One of RAICO's first cooperation project with Orient Sundar already exists and the wooden curtain wall of the Windoor City Exhibition Hall in Gaobeidian is exceptional in many respects, beginning with wood as the construction material. While wooden curtain walls are very common in Europe, in China wood is considered as an absolutely high-class construction material. The gigantic dimensions of Chinas biggest wooden curtain wall were also a great challenge. Together RAICO and Orient Sundar passed the herculean task with flying colours: With 40 metres in width and nearly 9 metres in height everything had to be constructed as a consistent unit. The high tech interiour of the RAICO curtain wall system is the highlight of this project: Smart home elements like shading, ventilation and lighting are directly integrated into the curtain wall system.