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Roof-Garden: getting popular in China
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2006-07-18 09:03

By Chen Ganzhang

Roof greening, having been developed for years in foreign countries, is at the very outset in China. Statistics shows that buildings with their roofs greened take up only 1 percent in wholly existing buildings, with an area of 500 thousand square meters. Behind the figures there is a huge market. How big the developing space therein? How to catch the business opportunities thereof?

Sun rising industry: grasp the opportunity of development

In 1980s, roof garden began to be prevalent in some European countries, such as Germany, Swiss, Netherlands and Belgium, where roof greening has been a fashion. After studying on the developing trend of roof greening at home and abroad, Liu Guoxiong, general manager of Beijing Green Environment Design and Service Co., Ltd., is convinced that there is a big potential in the market: "I was born in Beijing and grew up in Beijing. The urban environment of Beijing has a lot to be improved. Compared with traditional garden and park greening, the roof greening in China is at the initial stage, and it will definitely be vigorously popularized in the future."

Doctor Luo Xiangjun, an expert on roof garden, mentioned that greenery coverage of Beijing plans to reach 45 percent in 2008 while such a rate at present is 41.8 percent. It is quite difficult to increase even a little bit on this basis. According to statistics, the cost of removing and greening in megalopolises like Beijing and Shanghai, where land is as precious as gold, is startlingly ranging from 10 thousand Yuan to 50 thousand Yuan per square meter. Yet the roof greening is much cheaper, "at least no land cost thereof", said Wang Xianmin, secretary general of Beijing Roof Garden Association to the reporter. It is introduced that the cost for high-grade roof garden is no more than 500 Yuan per square meter, and the simple grass roof 150 Yuan per square meter. The price is still decreasing.

Road of growth: obtain the market by insisting

Since the second half of 2004, the market has been changed obviously along with the social concern of roof greening. There are more and more companies ask Liu Guoxiong's company for consultancies or propose to conduct roof greening initiatively. Now Liu's company has implemented the roof greening projects for Beijing Chemical Mansion and Sunshine Mansion, etc. The project that they received in daily routine is generally a business with an area between 2000 and 3000 square meters. In 2005, the biggest roof greening they did was Fuzhuo garden in Xuanwu District, Beijing, which was over 10 thousand square meters. Their company scale doubled and the profit increased tremendously.

Research of United Nation Environment Program indicates that the content of carbon dioxide over the city will decrease by 80 percent in case the roof-greening rate of a city reaches above 70 percent, and Tropical Island effect will completely disappear. An expert of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification said that the green roof has a good many practical strongpoints, like strengthening the buildings' anti-mechanocaloric effect ability, releasing the effect of acute temperature change in winter and summer, absorbing and minishing urban noise, as well as creating new eco-environment for the species of animals and plants in cities.

Future development: great market prospect

After 6 years' practice in roof greening, the market of which now turns to thrive, Liu Guoxiong feel the competition is not intense yet at present, but "a little bit of chaos". Lots of small and medium landscape enterprises are swarming into the market, products of different levels are coming out one after another, and naturally, the market is a mixed lot. 

He said roof greening is totally different with ordinary greening. Roof greening needs technical support, and safety is crucial. Not a few of their businesses are reconstructing the existing green roofs, in which some appear to be water leakage because the original constructer didn't make special handling on the drain joints. Wang Xianmin also mentioned that there are a lot of problems like the good and bad enterprises are intermingled in the market and competition is disordered due to the unhealthy roof-greening laws and regulations and the unperfected industrial standard. In 2005, Green Environment Design and Service Co., Ltd. participated in the establishment of industrial standard conducted by Ministry of Construction, and its patent product, namely special water reserving panel and drain panel for building greening, has been incorporated into national new type building material standard picture gallery. "But a single company can do very limited thing; the government should guide the market and regulate the industry", said Liu Guoxiong to the reporter.

China is in the preliminary stage of roof greening, with very limited roofs greened. As a matter of fact, there is 69.79 million square meters roof area needs greening in Beijing, and market prospect is fairly bright. Relevant personnel of Beijing Bureau of Parks and Woods introduced that in the future few years, the annual roof greening area will maintain at a level between 250 thousand and 300 thousand square meters.

At present, there isn't a law in China specially promulgated for roof greening. Governmental departments of parks and woods in the cities could only spread roof greening either by burdening all the capital or giving certain subsidies to the corporations that have made roof greening. The year of 2005 was Beijing's roof greening test and promotion year, the government spent money constructing 130 thousand square meters green roofs. However, without the promotion of the government, enterprises' enthusiasm about roof greening will to some extent be dampened down. 
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