Resource Consumption of New Urban Construction in China

The volume of China's recent additions to its urban-built environment is unprecedented. China now accounts for half of all new building area in the world. Increases in building stocks of all types have occurred during an extended period of accelerated growth of the national economy. This expansion promises to continue through 2030. As a result, the rapid conversion of land from low-density agricultural and light manufacturing to new urban zones of high density and material-intensive commercial and residential buildings has consumed enormous quantities of domestic and imported resources and has irreversibly altered the Chinese landscape. This article examines the consumption of material resources dedicated to Chinese building construction through a survey and analysis of the material intensity of three major building types. This provides a basis for outlining the emerging life-cycle issues of recent additions to the built environment and of continued construction. With this as the starting point, the field of industrial ecology can work toward formulating strategies for a circular economy that include a resource-efficient urban China.