Green China: 13 Examples of Innovative Eco Architecture

The notorious smog of Beijing and other pollution problems tend to obscure outsiders’ vision of China as a modern nation, but the fact is, China is home to some of the world’s greenest and most intelligently innovative architecture. Implementing technologies that have yet to be used on a similar scale in the U.S., like huge integrated wind turbines and reflecting pools fed with recycled greywater that help cool the air, these 13 buildings are showcases of sustainability.

Shanghai Tower by Gensler, Shanghai

(images via:

As soon as it’s completed – sometime in 2014 – the Shanghai Tower will be China’s tallest building at 2,073 feet. Currently under construction in the center of the city’s Pudong district, the transparent tower will be a self-contained city with offices, a hotel and entertainment, retail and cultural venues. The design achieved LEED Gold certification with sustainable features like energy-saving ‘curtain walls’ that maximize daylighting inside and improve air quality, integrated wind turbines, a rainwater collection system and use of geothermal energy. Many of the construction materials are locally sourced with a high levels of recycled content.

Vanke Center by Steven Holl, Shenzhen

(images via: steven holl)

Also known as ‘Horizontal Skyscraper’, Steven Holl’s Vanke Center is an unusual long, narrow structure raised above the ground to enable green space below the residences, offices and hotel located inside.  The building is as long as the Empire State Building is tall, and is raised on eight ‘legs’. Sunken glass cubes on the underside of the floating structure enable 360-degree views of the tropical landscape below. The LEED Platinum-certified building has a green roof with solar panels, and is made from sustainable buildings like bamboo. Furthermore, the series of man-made ‘lakes’ created beneath the skyscraper cool the air and are fed with a greywater system.

Linked Hybrid by Steven Holl and Li Hu, Beijing

(images via: steven holl)

An “open city within a city”, the Linked Hybrid – also by Steven Holl – is a pedestrian-oriented complex adjacent to the site of the old city wall of Beijing that provides a counterpoint to the site’s history by emphasizing inclusivity, open to the public from every side. The complex includes a restaurant, hotel, MOntessori school, a movie theater and public roof gardens as well as residential space, private gardens, cafes and galleries. The site includes reflecting pools that make use of water recycled from greywater tanks, and the buildings are heated and cooled using geothermal energy.

National Stadium AKA Bird’s Nest, Beijing

(images via: wikimedia commons)

Designed for the 2008 Summer Olympics, the Beijing National Stadium – also known as the Bird’s Nest – is a sustainable structure by architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron with assistance from Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. The design features a distinctive arrangement of steel beams that hide supports for the retractible roof. Biomimicry isn’t its only green feature; the Bird’s Nest includes a rainwater collection system, a translucent roof that allows grass to grow inside, and a passive ventilation system.