Chairman and CEO,
Broad Air Conditioning, China
Two years ago I entered what seemed
to be another world — quite different from
what I used to know about the West — in Vauban,
Freiburg, the solar city that is the green capital
Kids played on roads rolling hoops, playing marbles,
table tennis and badminton. There were no cars, no
cars at all, running in the community. All the cars were
confined to two multi-layer parking lots, and most of
them belonged to the public: in an emergency anyone
can borrow one, but many people can walk to work in five
minutes. In the open central square hundreds of people were
having dinner, drinking coffee and chatting cheerfully and humorously.
There seemed to be happiness and leisure everywhere.
As the sun set I saw solar photovoltaic devices everywhere. House windows
had sunshades and their walls were insulated. I saw a new house being built with 300 mm insulation foam boards, which surprised me greatly because
usually thermal insulation is 50 mm thick. But I came to realize that energy
conservation is a culture deeply rooted in the hearts of every resident of
Vauban. To them, every little bit of energy waste is a sin.
Two months later, I returned with a delegation of more than ten people
consisting of my staff, professors of Tsinghua University, Beijing, and
bosses of real estate companies. Local architects and officials spoke to us
about Vauban, and we ended up with four deep impressions.
The first is of low carbon. All the buildings were built or renovated
by residents. All the windows are triple-glazed and have
external sunshades. All the walls have very thick
thermal insulation and almost all houses have heatrecovery
fresh air ventilation. These technologies
seem very simple, but they enhance the energy
efficiency of buildings by 400 to 800 per cent.
The residents consider energy conservation vital,
Secondly, the residents treat renewable energies very
rationally. They know solar energy is the technology of
the future. Solar hot water and solar heating work well,
but solar photovoltaics is, at present, uneconomic. So the
Government subsidizes it paying for electricity exported
to the grid at prices three to five times higher than what
people normally pay. But, though the residents like
solar energy, they know that insulating buildings
should come first.
Thirdly, the residents seem to think a happy life
is an easy one. They use completely pesticidefree
and fertilizer-free methods to green the
environment, and never use non-local plants. They
make full use of things locally: many slides and other
things for kids are made of waste wood and bricks and
natural stones — and the children love them.
Lastly, our fourth impression was that neighbours get along
harmoniously. The poor do not suffer prejudice, the rich have no fear of
being attacked. Their income differences might be ten or a hundredfold
yet they live in harmony. Children play on roads or in woods, with no
concerns about safety. In China everyone worries about robbery and
theft, traffic accidents, and all kinds of attacks, but in Vauban many
people never lock their houses.
If a society pursues a low carbon lifestyle, enjoys joy and actualizes
harmony in this way, it has reached its zenith. If there were really
communism in the world, Vauban would be its exemplar, with what could
be called eco-communism. It has nothing costly, fashionable or artificial
just low carbon, joy, and harmony that can be summed up in one word:
happiness. I will visit Vauban again — even live there for a while.