Third Parties Proving Essential to Increasing Compliance Rate
Washington, D.C.—China is now the largest market for new construction in the world, adding about 20 billion square feet to its commercial and residential building stock annually in recent years. Given this scale, enforcement of building energy codes across China is challenging and critical for both Chinese and global building energy efficiency and carbon mitigation. Compliance with building energy codes has been reported as low, but a few new studies indicate that China has actually made great strides in improving compliance since 2005.
“China has dramatically improved its compliance rate with building energy codes in only five years,” writes Shui Bin in a new report released by the Global Buildings Performance Network (GBPN) and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Third Parties in the Implementation of Building Energy Codes in China. In the report, a third party refers to a company not affiliated with developers and regulatory bodies, but directly or indirectly involved in the process of ensuring compliance with building energy codes.
“The significant improvement is rooted in strong governmental regulatory support; clear rules about the responsibilities of key stakeholders and penalties for non-compliance; and an effective national program of inspection,” notes Dr. Shui.
In 2005, the Chinese government launched a series of national policies and projects to promote the enforcement of building energy codes. According to the country’s annual national inspection of building energy efficiency (which surveys four megacities, the majority of 30 provincial capitals, and two randomly selected cities in each province), compliance rates in large and medium-sized cities have risen from 53% (design stage) and 21% (construction stage) in 2005 to 99.5% and 95.4%, respectively, in 2010.
The energy code compliance rate in China is defined as compliance with mandatory items in building energy codes at both the design and construction stages. The reported compliance rates do not take into account small towns and rural areas. Some international building experts have suggested that the definition of compliance needs to be improved. Nevertheless, the compliance rates point to the strong performance of the overarching institutions, including the functioning of third parties, between 2005 and 2010. Factors contributing to China’s success include: strong regulatory support; multiple agencies involved in compliance efforts; the employment and transparent management of third parties (there were 5,500 certified construction inspection companies as of 2009); and clear penalties for non-compliance.
China’s system “lends itself to getting better compliance rates, because there is effective oversight from the local to the national level and the energy code is seen as equally important as fire and life safety codes,” says Ryan Meres, Code Compliance Specialist at the Institute for Market Transformation.
For China’s energy code compliance to continue to improve, the bidding process needs further protection against corruption, Dr. Shui writes. The education and training of construction workers must also be addressed. Information about code requirements and construction techniques needs to be more widely disseminated, as well.