Shanghai World Expo Emphasizes Low-Carbon Economy

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-09-20 12:54
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 It was not just coincidence that “Better City, Better Life” was chosen as the theme for World Expo 2010 Shanghai. Human society is now at a historical turning point where the process of urbanization is accelerating and a new technological revolution is brewing. The process of urbanization has progressed at an unprecedented speed over the past 200 years. In 1800, the urban population of the whole world only accounted for 2% of the total population, but now exceeds 50%. The world has already seen two scientific revolutions and three technological revolutions. Scientists predict that revolutionary changes are likely to take place in the first half of the 21st century. The green revolution, which is in line with the process of urbanization, will become the main theme for the next scientific and technological revolution, and new energy sources and new materials that save energy and are environmentally friendly will become important fields in that revolution. Because of this, the idea of a low-carbon economy based on low energy consumption, low level of pollution and low level of emissions has gained wide acceptance.

 The Shanghai Expo comes at an opportune time as the international community is increasing cooperation and dialog in order to mount a concerted effort to address climate change. The crisis brought about by global climate change has eroded the vitality of cities and the quality of urban life and is threatening human survival and economic and social development. The Copenhagen Accord reached at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Denmark sent a message to the whole world expressing the hope and confidence that the world will be able to address climate change through international cooperation.

 Held against such a backdrop the Shanghai Expo will uphold the traditions of past World Expos while also serve as a stage for displaying new technologies, new products and new ideas for the new era. China will spare no effort in working with all the parties participating in the World Expo to promote energy conservation and environmental protection, engage in dialog about and practice in following a model for low-carbon economic development and take the lead in developing a model for the survival of humankind in the future.

 The Chinese government and the organizers of the Shanghai Expo are taking the lead in incorporating the idea of a low-carbon economy in the plans and designs for the Expo site, the construction of the World Expo venues, and the operation of the Expo site, and are fully displaying the latest achievements in science and technology of the host country of the World Expo. 

 First of all, extensive use has been made of solar energy. The China Pavilion, the Theme Pavilion and some of the other facilities whose construction was the responsibility of the organizers are all powered by solar energy. The power generating capacity for the World Expo site will total 5 mw, making it currently the area with the largest concentration and greatest application of solar energy in all of China’s urban districts. The roof of the Theme Pavilion of the World Expo is covered with 30,000m2 of solar panels, making it China’s largest single solar-energy roof.

 Second, new types of environmentally friendly vehicles are being used in the World Expo site. A new type of trackless trolley-buses, super capacitor buses and mixed super capacitor/battery hybrid vehicles are being used for public transportation to ensure zero emissions within the site. The use of non-polluting vehicles will also give a strong boost to the development and application of new energy vehicles in Shanghai. 

 Third, the World Expo site features extensive use of energy-saving equipment. Light-emitting diode (LED) technology, recognized as “the green light source of the 21st century,” provides the main illumination in the Urban Best Practices Area (UBPA). This is the first time this technology has been used so extensively for street lights in an urban area of China. 

 Fourth, resource recycling technology has been applied. Taking advantage of the Shanghai Expo’s location on the two banks of the Huangpu River, venues in the site are using the clean energy sources of heat from the river and geothermal energy for both heating and cooling purposes to ensure zero emissions and allow recycling. The roofs of the pavilions collect in large-capacity collection systems rain water which is then treated to be used to water the vegetation. Finally, several physical and biological techniques are used to treat the water from the Huangpu River before it is used to water the landscaped areas and garden areas of the venues.

 Fifth, the buildings in the Shanghai Expo are energy-saving and ecologically friendly. The organizers have designed and built the pavilions and other facilities in the World Expo according to the requirement to make them energy-saving and ecologically friendly. The buildings take full advantage of natural wind patterns, tunnel wind in underground spaces, automatic sunshade systems, natural light and roof-top and wall vegetation to reduce energy consumption. “Green” building materials have been selected for buildings that make efficient use of energy and resources and are very environmentally friendly. In particular, it should be mentioned that the 5,000m2 wall enclosing the eastern and western sides of the Theme Pavilion of the World Expo is the world’s largest ecological wall, used to regulate the temperature in the pavilion.

 May 12, 2010, LED lighting illuminates the night at the World Expo Axis. Over 80% of night lights at World Expo Park used energy-efficient LEDs. /Photo by Xinhua reporter Pei Xin

 Sixth, appropriate solid waste treatment technologies have been applied to ensure that solid waste is safely compacted and recycled. All waste produced in the World Expo will be sorted before treatment. A pneumatic pipeline system for the permanent buildings (the Expo Axis, the China Pavilion, the Expo Theme Pavilion, the Expo Center and the Expo Performance Center) carries trash to the collection center. The sorting, collecting and transporting of waste in the completely enclosed pneumatic pipelines is computer controlled. 

 In addition to the organizers themselves, many exhibitors from the 242 countries, regions and international organizations have also actively worked to incorporate the idea of a low-carbon economy in the design of their pavilions and set-up of their exhibitions.

 Japan’s official pavilion, “Purple Silkworm Island,” incorporates environmental control technology in its design and makes maximum use of the natural resources of sunlight, water and air. The highly translucent, double-layer membrane with internal solar cells enveloping the pavilion makes maximum of use of natural sunlight. The entire outer surface is covered with a layer of “membrane structure” containing solar cells, making it look like some kind of “space fortress.” Ventilation in the pavilion is accomplished through the latest technology, including a recirculating system of vents and ducts that allows air to flow in and out of the pavilion. This unique hi-tech design makes it an exhibition hall that “breathes.” Spain’s official pavilion, which has a floor space of 8,500m2, was built by “weaving” together millions of willow twigs. The interior of the pavilion is mainly finished with bamboo and translucent paper and the roof makes use of solar energy, making the pavilion energy efficient. The official Swiss pavilion is enveloped by a curtain of translucent aluminum grill panels that hangs from a height of 20 meters and is covered with 11,000 irregularly spaced light-emitting elements. These elements, which are made of environmentally friendly biological resins impregnated with dye-sensitized solar cells, make a dynamic flashing effect on the outer walls of the pavilion. This curtain, which is made of soybean fiber, not only generates power but will also naturally degrade after the expo is over, truly an innovative concept. The official pavilion of the United Arab Emirates features an undulating orange outer shell designed to resemble the ever-changing, boundless desert, displaying how their ancestors brought fresh water to the desert and how they kept their dwellings cool naturally.

  Another important innovation at the Shanghai Expo is the Urban Best Practice Area (UBPA) set up on the western bank of the Huangpu River within the Expo site.

 The UBPA is one of the most important elements reflecting the theme of the Shanghai Expo and contains four display areas showing different aspects of present day urban development, i.e. livable homes, sustainable urbanization, protection and use of historical heritage, and scientific and technological advances for improving the environment. The International Selection Committee set up by the organizers of the World Expo eventually chose about 50 applications for construction and pavilion displays from among the 113 submitted by 28 countries and regions. Many of these are energy conservation and environmental protection demonstration models that closely conform to the idea of a low-carbon economy. Germany’s Hamburg House, for example, is a “passive house” that consumes very little energy. The building basically needs no active energy supply. It mainly relies on pumped in underground hot water as the energy source for heating, refrigeration, ventilation and dehumidification. The building also uses solar energy, is energy self-sufficient and produces zero emission. This type of building consumes only 50kW of energy per square meter per annum on average, equivalent to one-fourth of the average energy consumption for ordinary office buildings. The Zero Fossil Energy Development (ZED) project from London, England in the UBPA achieves the same result as the “Hamburg House” through different means. The prototype, the Beddington Zero Energy Development (BedZED), is the world’s first community with zero carbon dioxide emission. The ZED project represents a comprehensive advance in construction technology with its use of the core and key technologies of Britain's BedZED system combined with the special features of the local climate to fully utilize natural resources and renewable energy and raise the energy utilization rate. 

 “Everything begins with the World Expo” has been the motto as well as the spirit of the World Expo since the first one was held 158 years ago. The Shanghai Expo is a great stage on which the host country and all other participating countries, regions and organizations are displaying and comparing their achievements in creating a greener environment, conserving energy and protecting the environment in the new century through application of new energy sources, new technologies and new materials. The Shanghai Expo is a demonstration zone for popularizing, promoting and putting into practice the idea of a low-carbon economy and is sure to have a major impact on people’s lives in the future.

(From Qiushi in Chinese, No. 5, 2010)  

Note: Author: Member of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Vice Chairman of the Shanghai Municipal Committee of the CPPCC, and Deputy Director of the Shanghai 2010 World Expo Executive Committee

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