Sustainability by Design: How One Building in China Could Change the World

Publication Type


Date Published




Since the new millennium, the Shenzhen Institute of Building Research (IBR) has been committed to promoting sustainable building design and urban development in China. When the Institute decided to build its new headquarters, they wanted the building to be a living laboratory that could showcase green technology. Today, the Shenzhen IBR Building is steadily gaining recognition as a showcase of sustainable design. The building is open to anyone interested in green building technologies — and to date, it has received more than 30,000 visitors.

On closer inspection, this pioneering building reveals an abundance of carefully designed features that are making it a model for green architecture not just in China, but throughout the world as well. These features include:

    • More than 40 sustainable technologies that were incorporated into a low-cost, low-energy building through the use of integrated design principles.
    • A design focus on daylighting and natural ventilation, which greatly reduced the energy loads for lighting and air conditioning.
    • Workspaces designed to emphasize communication and a people-friendly environment. (As a result, workers in the building report high levels of satisfaction with their workspaces.)
    • Integrating nature with the workplace to provide an environment that is both stimulating and restorative. Innovations included generously landscaped areas, such as the novel Sky Garden on the sixth floor, and elevations designed to capture the benefits of the wind and sun.

Unlike green showcases that achieved low-energy performance at a high-cost premium, the Shenzhen IBR Building was built at a lower cost than that of new commercial structures in Shenzhen. The architects kept the total per-square-meter construction cost in 2009 to RMB 4300 Yuan/m2 ($70/ft2), which is a remarkably low number considering all of the sustainable measures included in the project. Part of the reason for this low cost of construction was that the design team pursued a strategy of integrated design, finding the optimal combination of systems that could reduce construction costs. The IBR managed the entire building's design, construction, and operation stages through this integrated approach.

Year of Publication



ISBN-13:978-0692341155; ISBN-10:0692341153


Research Areas

Related Files