Zero Energy Slum

The other day I paid a visit to the newest addition to Huazhong Architecture School in Wuhan where I am currently teaching. I had found this Panoramio photo with description on Google Maps and I got curious to see what these new premises were housing. I quote from the description (presumably written by someone highly involved in the project): "The national demonstration project of renewable energy building in Huazhong University of Science and Technology, approved by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, is dedicated to construct a teaching or office building with renewable energy use to adjust temperature and comfort all year in hot summer and cold winter area. To begin with, the project has taken advantage of Active Dynamic Hollow Walls (ADHW) with fluid air layers and climate adaptive windows. Furthermore, renewable energy, collected and stored by circulating water in the underground heat sink or heat source, has earned its position in the project because of the local advantage of an underground temperature annul balance. Fresh air exchanges heat with the water containing renewable energy in an under-floor radiator to adjust its own temperature. The fresh air is released into the indoor through an under-floor air supply system, thus regulating comfort in an indoor environment. In addition, the annul power consumption of the comfort regulation system is no more than the annul power generation of solar cells on the roof of a building. In a word, buildings in the project succeed in utilization of solar energy, underground heat sink in summer and heat source in winter for anti-reason use and have achieved the goals of saving of energy, land and water along with building materials, of environmental protection and of pollution reduction."

High ambitions, no doubt. Actually, whether or not this building lives up to its environmental claims become quite irrelevant when confronted with the architecture and construction materials. Below are a few photos I took of the inside, and bear in mind that this building is built less than two years ago:

As an experiment to show that these energy-saving technologies are efficient, this building might be successful on paper. But the extraordinarily poor quality of design and materials completely undermines the possibility of convincing anyone that these techniques are compatible with ordinary construction procedures in China. Building it in the first place is not only a waste of money and materials, but a liability to the real research and work that is going on to find truly sustainable solutions to housing construction.