China/Sustainable Design:

China's first eco-village development off to slow start

Several years ago, U.S. architect Bill McDonough and Deng Nan, the daughter of China's former leader Deng Xiaoping, sat down and developed the idea behind the Huangbaiyu eco-village -- a rural development about 10 miles outside of Benxi that would reflect McDonough's "Cradle to Cradle" sustainability principles. Three years later, only two homes are inhabited. What went wrong? And what are the future plans for this eco-village? This E&ETV Special Report explores Hunagbaiyu's sustainable development.

Transcript

The so-called Huangbaiyu eco-village, located 20 kilometers from the industrial hub of Benxi, is the brainchild of U.S. architect Bill McDonough and Deng Nan, the daughter of China's former leader Deng Xiaoping.

It's China's first eco-village development.

But three years after breaking ground on the project, only 42 of the hundreds of planned straw-brick houses have been built. And only two homes are inhabited.

The reason: Farmers say there isn't enough room to grow crops, or raise animals. The homes, which reflect McDonough's "Cradle to Cradle" sustainability principles, lack water and power. Plans to install solar panels in the homes have proven to be too expensive. International funding for the project has been pulled.

However, the project's developer and village head, Dai Xiaolong, promises that by the end of July, 30 families will move into the village. Dai says the homes will be powered by the village's new biomass gasification plant.

The plant uses cornstalk waste and collected rainwater to produce gas for the home's cooking stoves and heating systems.

If Huangbaiyu proves successful, policymakers and nongovernmental organizations in China hope to bring the sustainable design principles of this project to other rural areas.

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