China sets eco projects in motion to lure green travelers

An artist’s impression of the world’s first ‘forest city’ in Liuzhou. Source: Stefano Boeri Architetti

WORK has begun in Liuzhou, Guangxi Province, to build the world’s first “forest city,” a multi-use site rumored to include a hotel and museum as well as housing and offices. It’s one of many eco projects underway in China to curb pollution, promote sustainability and tap the green travel market.

The country – known for its gargantuan carbon emissions – is under pressure to tackle the problem and the hotel industry has an integral role to play. With room inventory expected to increase from 2.1 million to 9.1 million by 2039, developers are being urged to make new builds more environmentally friendly and energy efficient.

Tourists too are becoming more environmentally aware and taking steps to reduce their own carbon footprint. As such, resorts and hotels with conservation measures in place are gaining popularity among this growing group of conscientious travelers.

To meet demand and allay concerns, China is concentrating its efforts on eco initiatives. As a result, sensitively designed and innovative structures are appearing across the country.

Eco hotels

An artist’s impression of the ‘greenest hotel ever made’. Source Atkins Global

On the outskirts of Shanghai, the Songjiang InterContinental Hotel described by its designers as the “greenest hotel ever made,” is near completion.

Adopting a different approach to sustainability, the development has repurposed the wasteland of a disused quarry and turned it into a futuristic hotel and spa that will offer 383 rooms and conference facilities for up to a 1,000 people.

The property is an architectural masterpiece that recedes into the cliff-side and features cascading hanging gardens as well as an expansive eco-friendly green roof. But unlike many hotels of this size, it will harness geothermal energy to produce electricity and heating for the site.

SEE ALSO: Simple tools, old bricks used for Great Wall of China repairs to preserve culture 

Green spaces

“Urban greening” is on the rise throughout China. Often this takes the form of rooftop gardens and parks such as those created for the Nanning Planning Exhibition Hall and the West Kowloon Terminus in Hong Kong.

But Shanghai has made a greater commitment than most. According to, the city has pledged to create two million sq m of new green space by 2020. The move should save energy by diminishing the reliance on air-conditioning to maintain an ambient temperature inside its buildings.

It is also hoped these rooftop gardens will reduce dust and absorb rainfall to help ease the pressure on older drain systems.

SEE ALSO: Asia’s first ‘vertical forest’ to debut in China

Artificial islands

Construction has started in Haikou Bay, Hainan to transform an artificial island into an enormous 250-hectare eco resort called South Sea Pearl Island.

The New York-based design firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro was picked over nine others to mastermind the project, which should be finished by 2027.

Although specific details about its sustainability measures remain unknown at this stage, the international jury that approved the proposal said “it would create a beautiful, iconic form rising naturally out of the landscape… a continuous structure that would be an extremely efficient compaction of resort, retail, and housing.”

However, this is also one of China’s more controversial initiatives; The Guardian reports island-building is causing significant damage to coral and the delicate marine ecosystem.

It, therefore, raises the question: Can the country really repair the environmental degradation that has taken place or has it gone too far?