The Shenzhen Institute of Building Research (IBR) designed its new headquarters in the Futian District of Shenzhen as a green experiment, using an impressive array of sustainable strategies and technologies. Because the institute was both the architect and client on this project, it could be more daring than usual in promoting a green agenda. “Employing 40 technologies such as solar-energy generation, natural ventilation, gray-water recycling, and super-efficient HVAC systems, this building serves as a showcase for green design,” said the Good Design Is Good Business China awards jury.

IBR implemented the green design principals of “localization, low-energy consumption, and finely detailed design,” reports Ye Qing, president of the institute. Ye wanted the headquarters to embody the best sustainable building practices while differentiating it from other expensive “technology performance” buildings. So the architects kept the total per-square-meter construction cost to RMB 4,000, a reasonable number considering all of the sustainable measures included in the project. By employing both simple design tactics and complex technological systems, the building reduces annual electricity costs by 15 million RMB, water costs by 54,000 RMB, and carbon dioxide emissions by 1,600 tons, reports IBR.

Completed in March 2008, the 180,000-square-meter office building represents a “new office style,” according to Ye. The architects designed it as a set of “building blocks,” explains Ye. “The three-dimensional stacked functions are the unique aspects of the building.” By organizing portions of the building into various blocks and stacking them, the architects were able to create a 12-story outdoor atrium on the east side that captures southeasterly breezes and brings daylight deep inside. Photovoltaic panels covering the atrium provide clean energy as part of China’s first state-level renewable energy demonstration project. Highly efficient HVAC systems and sophisticated sensors provide further energy savings.

In terms of its mechanical systems, the building uses a gray-water treatment system that results in zero discharge of wastewater and collects rainwater used for micro-irrigation of the extensive plantings on outdoor terraces. Utilizing “free energy from nature,” the building takes advantage of natural ventilation and daylighting, says Ye.