Expo Pavilions into School


In 2010, a unique coalition of NGOs, 9 Expo Pavilions, assorted service companies, volunteers, and a Shanghai-based school came together to demonstrate the concept of reuse. Instead of being thrown in a landfill, Expo pavilion building materials were used to build a new boarding school for secondary school students. This case study continues to serve as a foundation for local government policy recommendations around large scale events and to inspire students to incorporate reuse into their lives.

More importantly, this story is about multiple independent stakeholders coming together to make an innovative sustainability initiative happen. Going green doesn't necessarily have to cost more money. Much can be achieved by simply aligning different incentives of all involved stakeholders and leveraging the resources of the group effectively. As this case demonstrates, by working in a coordinated fashion, we can overcome standard barriers of "business as usual" to create systemic change.

The YK Pao Expo Material Reuse study exemplifies how JUCCCE brings people together to make extraordinary things happen. Participating organizations include:

  • EXPO PAVILIONS: Cyprus, London ZED, Cisco, New Zealand, Swiss Cities, India Pondicherry, UK, Portugal and Alsace Pavilions.
  • SCHOOL: YK Pao
  • COMPANIES: Ruder Finn, Parsons Brinckerhoff, S.H.E., ID Creations, Charlie Xia Photography

Photo by Billy Hustace

JUCCCE (Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy) selected YK Pao school in Shanghai to be our 'Green School Showcase', one of our ongoing projects to accelerate the greening of Chinese consumer behavior. The goal was to select an average, financially constrained school that couldn't afford to 'buy' its way into being green and that was planning new construction (it is easier to go green with new buildings than retrofitted ones).

YK Pao School: www.ykpaoschool.cn

YK Pao is a fairly new school built in 2007. In 2010, they launched a new primary school campus in the heart of Shanghai, in addition to building a new secondary boarding school in 2011 on the outskirts of town. Although the school wanted to "build green", they were struggling to find expertise and to finance the necessary green improvements. While the school's curriculum emphasizes environmental education and social responsibility, the school staff was already straining to develop the core curriculum at that point. The school welcomed outside support in going green. (As a side note, JUCCCE Chair Peggy Liu's son attends YK Pao, and as a result, Peggy was introduced to school co-founder Philip Sohmen.)

YK Pao School is a non-profit school offering a unique curriculum balancing Chinese core values with an international approach and holistic perspective. Currently, over 400 students from across China and eighteen other countries are enrolled in the primary school; the secondary school opened in fall 2011.




Photo by Billy Hustace

Eugenia Yen, a parent at the school, led YK Pao sustainability efforts for the 2009-2010 school year. Now she still works on sustainability issues through the Parent Teacher Association.

Leading experts such as Rob Watson from New York, father of LEED, and Jill Buck from California, founder of Go Green Initiative for schools, were brought in by JUCCCE to offer advice. Jill's visit to the school inspired many ideas for parent-teacher green initiatives for 2011.

In April 2009, JUCCCE introduced YK Pao to Raymond Lo, Executive Director of Business Development in the China Region for Parsons Brinckerhoff. Parsons Brinckerhoff is a leading engineering design and project and construction management firm, and provides expertise and advice on sustainable school operations worldwide. PB’s parent, Balfour Beatty from the UK, is one of the largest investors and service providers for the UK government’s Building Schools for the Future Program. PB has been supportive of JUCCCE's work and was interested in collaborating on a few select showcases in China.

Agreeing to work on a pro-bono basis, PB’s primary concern was to help the secondary boarding school evaluate how to go green and at what cost. In addition to providing sustainable design and planning advice, PB also conducted several workshops for the school’s consulting team, analyzed the potential energy savings under different options, and conducted a preliminary LEED qualification assessment for the school. Impressed by the PB team’s commitment and professionalism, the school subsequently decided to engage PB for fee as the Project and Construction Manager for their secondary school campus construction.

[For additional information, see Parsons Brinckerhoff: www.pbworld.com, one of the world's leading planning, engineering, and program and construction management consulting firms].

Philip Sohmen, YK Pao School and Raymond Lo, Executive Director,Business Development, China Region, Parsons Brinckerhoff; Photo by Charlie Xia








Philip Sohmen, YK Pao School and Raymond Lo, Executive Director,Business Development, China Region, Parsons Brinckerhoff

Photo by Charlie Xia

On Nov 17, 2009, co-founder Philip Sohmen spoke at a JUCCCE Green IdeaLab about the challenges the school faced in trying to become greener in terms of infrastructure, curriculum, and operations.

On Jan 26, 2010, Richard Brubaker, professor of sustainability at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), and a team of his students spoke about their project to explore systematically reusing Expo building materials. This team was led by student John Timms, and included Denise Chao, Alan Ding, Ming Liu, Sachin Kulkarni, and Catherine Xuan. John had the original idea of reusing Expo pavilion materials after reading the UN Environment Program (UNEP) assessment of the Expo. According to Richard, the business plan originally focused on how to make the Expo more sustainable. However, given the involvement during a later point of Expo construction, Richard suggested that they focus instead on how to handle the waste responsibly.

Richard teaches a sustainability course that is mandatory for all CEIBS business school students; it is the only such arrangement that exists at a Chinese business school.

John is an MBA Candidate from CEIBS (China Europe International Business School: www.CEIBS.edu) who graduated in 2011.

After completing the CEIBS sustainability course, John continued to believe in the pavilion reuse idea – engaging in research and exploring opportunities – and he was later able to connect with Green Ideas, Green Actions (GIGA) and move the project into the next stage. With the end goal of creating a permanent material exchange, John began working with GIGA to connect with pavilions, conduct feasibility studies, and gauge the viability of material reclamation. The aim was to use reclaimed Expo materials as a highly visible example and jumpstart large-scale reuse initiatives for manufacturers and construction companies. GIGA combined efforts with YK Pao to offer pavilions a consistent message to "reuse materials". Additionally, the YK Pao school was a visible and tangible end-user to which pavilions could donate their materials, further bolstering support for the project.

Green Ideas, Green Actions (GIGA): www.gigabase.org: a coalition of architects and designers created to reset our standards to ensure everything we make has a positive impact on ecology, society and the economy.


On May 13, 2010, as part of its pro bono service for the school, PB conducted a workshop with the secondary school’s consulting team to assess the 'greenness' of their designs based on the LEED rating framework, and subsequently prepared a report with specific recommendations for the school's consideration. PB team: Raymond Lo; Kenneth Siu- Kong Li; Cottee Min Hua.

What they found was that "based on the type of sustainability features embodied in the current design of the school (benchmarking against the LEED rating system), the school is likely only able to achieve 20 points (as versus 40 points for entry certification). An additional 32 points are potentially achievable but not yet included in the current design. Some of these points may not be costly to incorporate but will require the school's insistence to include in its design requirements and tender documentation. Some other points may require more capital outlay but hopefully corporate sponsorships may help."

Their findings prompted the question, "how is a financially constrained school going to go green"?

Raymond Lo noted: “Good sustainability designs do not necessarily cost more. In fact, they should cost less from an asset’s whole life cycle perspective, if we take into account the annual savings expected from the reduction in energy consumption and the sometimes undesirable impacts on the environment. Yet, to many project owners and property developers who are often constrained by a tight capital budget upfront, the dilemma of committing to good green designs is very real.”

On June 1, 2010, Peggy reached out to Richard Brubaker to see if the student team working on Expo reuse could provide any support and direction for YK Pao. On July 6, Richard reintroduced John Timms, who had been working with GIGA to create an Expo Material Exchange.

On July 22, 2010, Raefer Wallis, co-founder of GIGA and design firm A00, said, "From where we stand, the Expo is just the extreme case of what happens every day in Shanghai/China. Buildings and fit-outs have very short life spans here and we all know the issues associated with this. Hence, we're looking into the viability of a material exchange platform for salvaged, re-usable and recyclable goods. We're looking for a long term solution and the Expo serves as a good pilot, seeing as it contains most of the complexities involved with the reality of construction: most importantly, timeline and difficulty of accessing materials. John [Timms] is doing the feasibility study for this and in doing so, will be sifting through the BOQs [Bill of Quantities] of various pavilions... enabling us to identify materials that may be suited for YK Pao.

My experience with the Expo people is that they are over-stretched in terms of people wanting their attention, versus how many hours actually exist in a day. We should definitely be hitting the pavilions with a packaged mission in order to help them focus."


In July 2010, Philip, Raymond, and Peggy met to discuss the challenges the secondary school campus faced in getting LEED certification, given the physical campus and financial constraints. They agreed to take a different approach to "greening" the campus, and decided to leverage the fact that the Expo was concluding at a time when the new school campus was just starting construction. JUCCCE worked to help locate pavilions that could donate materials for reuse in the building of YK Pao School’s new secondary school boarding campus in Shanghai. With the successful closing of the 2010 Expo, high public interest was expected in a sustainability story involving the pavilions.

Peggy Liu, JUCCCE Chairperson and a TIME Magazine Hero of the Environment explained, “REUSE is often ignored in favor of its siblings, REDUCE and RECYCLE. This is a historic opportunity - with the dismantling of the Expo Pavilions and the building of the YK Pao secondary school - for us to showcase a practical and mutually beneficial way to reuse our Earth's precious resources. JUCCCE is proud to work with YK Pao as our Green School Showcase in creating best practices that can be emulated across China.”


On July 9, 2010, Jennifer Feng 冯中怡, introduced by her father Ben to JUCCCE, donated her marketing expertise and bilingual capability. Jennifer would become an integral part of the team to approach pavilions and secure MOUs. YK Pao later hired Jennifer in December 2010 to help with the marketing of their secondary school.

To handle the MOUs and contracts, JUCCCE reached out to Vinson & Elkins law firm for pro bono help. Managing Director David Blumenthal introduced us to one of his partners, whose son-in-law, Clayton Forswall, was interning at King and Wood and who had worked an environmental consultant and engineer prior to law school. On July 28, 2010, Jennifer Feng (JUCCCE), Jennifer Lee (representing YK Pao), Clayton Forswall (King and Wood) and John Timms (representing CEIBS and GIGA) met formally for the first time and set in motion collaborative efforts to approach pavilions with a collective proposal. A solicitation letter was drafted after close collaboration with YK Pao's marketing staff Charles Prior and other team members.

Meanwhile, Cindy Ma had started a business consulting venture to harness the power of women to promote Sustainability, Health and Education (SHE Advisory) in China. Cindy's son also attends YK Pao, so she had a natural incentive for working on the project. With the advice of JUCCCE Chairperson Peggy Liu, Cindy launched her new consulting practice by volunteering with JUCCCE as the project's 'Expo Materials Re-use Project Manager'.

Cindy Ma summarized the project as a "great case of how we have brought various people together with project management and facilitation for a unique demonstration of re-use. With the help of JUCCCE, we were able to successfully bring this idea into action, leverage the right resources, and execute with energy and passion for the overall mission. It has been a multi-disciplinary team effort of NGO's and organizations coming together, all in support of sustainability and materials re-use. "

S.H.E Advisory (SHE): www.sheadvisory.org: Business advisory consulting group of women committed to Sustainability, Health and Education.

In late August, Ryan Dick of GIGA came on board and helped drive the pavilion sign-up process and building material assessment.


On Sep 1, 2010, under Cindy's leadership, this volunteer team assembled for the first time and efforts to sign up pavilions began in earnest. Cindy Ma (SHE), Jennifer Feng (JUCCCE), John Timms (CEIBS, GIGA), and Ryan Dick (GIGA) began the drive to assess materials and sign-up pavilions for material reclamation.

The question posed to the pavilions was simple: "Have you thought about what you will do with your pavilion after the Expo is over?" Approximately 60 of the 70 pavilions built expressly for the Expo expected to send all materials to landfills after the event. Some pavilions attempted to sell materials for repurposing, but their level of success had been unclear.

With the help of personal contacts, the team was able to approach pavilions and reach commissioner-generals. Pavilions were additionally approached by team members going door-to-door to pitch our proposal on-site.

On Sep 1, 2010, Philip and Peggy met with Raymond Lo, Stuart Glenn (PB's Asia Managing Director), and David Tsui (PB's head of China). PB agreed to donate more manpower to this project.

Difficulties in getting pavilions on board included:

  • Getting access to key decision makers, the commissioner-generals of the pavilions, who were extremely busy throughout the Expo. 
  • Many of the pavilions had given little thought to material reuse before we approached them, which made the task of donating (and accepting) the materials difficult- from materials specs documentation to dismantling agent arrangements.
  • Some of the pavilions could not make a decision until quite late, as they were waiting to see if they could see donate the entire pavilion rather than bits and pieces.
  • There was initial uncertainty on how to handle customs tax. YK Pao assumed the costs of the 30% tax on the original value of imported items. Less than 20% of the materials donated were actually imported.

In trying to identify and engage the Commissioner-Generals of each pavilion, two approaches worked equally well. Half of the pavilions came from introductions made via personal relationships with team members. Half of the pavilions approached YK Pao because they had heard of the project through a mass mailing sent by volunter Kelly Huang to the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), China's leading exhibition organization.

The Cyprus Pavilion was the first to sign a Memorandum of Understanding and has since enjoyed contributing to this project. “Knowing that part of the ‘House of Aphrodite’ will be reused to build a school - where young minds will be encouraged to build a creative and sustainable future - rather than simply discarded is extremely satisfying,” said the pavilion director Daphne Hutagalung.

The 9 Expo Pavilions that agreed to donate materials include national, city and corporate pavilions: Cyprus, London ZED, Cisco, New Zealand, Swiss Cities, India Pondicherry, UK, Portugal and Alsace Pavilions.







Swiss Cities Pavilion; Cyprus Pavilion; London Pavilion

On Sept 6, 2010, JUCCCE asked Gao Ming, Ruder Finn's Shanghai VP & GM, to contribute pro bono help as the project's Public Relations Partner.

"Ruder Finn has a strong commitment to sustainability and CSR initiatives, and we have been working on various NGO initiatives. For this particular project, we are willing to give some pro-bono support."

Ruder Finn Public Relations Shanghai: www.ruderfinnasia.com Team: Mr. Vincent He/ Ms. Lindsey Lou

Photographer Charlie Xia, who had previously worked at two JUCCCE China Energy Forums, graciously donated his time to documenting the pavilions and thank you ceremony.  Charlie Xia has also been involved in creating a photo library in the field of sustainability. 

Oct 22, 2010 - The group held a thank you ceremony event for participating pavilions at the London ZED Pavilion, managed by JUCCCE staffer Christine Chen.

Shanghai, 11th November, 2010 – Ruder Finn helped distribute English language press release.






Jacqueline Faulkner of London ZED Pavilion receiving a thank-you from YK Pao student

Photo by Charlie Xia







Thank you ceremony by YK Pao students for the 9 Pavillions participating in this project

Photo by Charlie Xia


When the 5.28 square kilometre World Expo 2010 park closed its doors to the public in Shanghai at the end of October, the biggest and most expensive fair of its kind became a vast deconstruction site. Rainbow Liu of YK Pao School and Harold Hai-Zhi Zheng, Project Manager of PB, joined the team at this time to focus on the deconstruction process of the pavilions and getting reusable materials to the school.

Once the top decision makers at the pavilions returned to their home countries and our team was left to deal with the lower layers of management, more difficulties ensued. As the energy that had buoyed support during the Expo disappeared, there remained little incentive for lower level management to preserve residual materials. In some cases, last minute complications with the safety and quality of the gifted materials forced our team to swap or abandon equipment.

In another complication, New Zealand wanted to donate a lot of imported goods that would have meant YK Pao paying RMB 50,000 in customs taxes. If government policy had allowed waivers for the 30% customs tax on the original value of goods, this would have made a transfer of goods much easier. Although YK Pao is a legal non-profit in China, they could not obtain a tax waiver. New Zealand was incentivized to donate the goods because it would have had to spend money on transportation to move all materials offsite, or have the pavilion destroyed (not environmentally friendly). The tax situation thus compelled YK Pao to place a maximum on the amount of materials accepted for reuse.

All of these materials would eventually be removed, packed up, transported and then reused in the construction of the new campus. Most of the pavilions were designed to be deconstructed easily, making this job significantly easier. There was a short one month period during which all materials needed to be removed and shipped to YK Pao for storage. To facilitate the transfer, the team enlisted Dazhong Logistics company. Countries with self-built pavilions were given until May 1, 2011 - six months from the closing ceremony - to return their plots to the expo organisers in the same condition as they received them.


Photo by Billy Hustace






Photo by Billy Hustace

Most of the materials donated were assigned to interior use. Due to the commercial monetary value of steel and other metals that could be used for construction, such materials were typically claimed by deconstruction companies during the actual deconstruction process. In total, over 300 items of 50 different types were donated by participant pavilions to begin a new chapter at YK Pao School. If YK Pao had to buy these materials new at retail, they would have spent hundreds of thousands of RMB. Materials transport and customs duties of almost RMB 100,000 were paid by YK Pao in order to receive the materials. They included:

  • Doors, full restroom suites,
  • TVs, projectors, DVD players,
  • Staircases and stair rails, cork tiles for sound insulation, decorative wall tiles, glass
  • Flooring, carpet tiles,
  • Signage, neon lights, track lighting, spare light bulbs,
  • Office furniture, reception tables, speaker podiums, curtains,
  • AstroTurf, pots and plants, pebbles, fencing, miscellaneous decorations,
  • Water filters, refrigerators, microwaves, isolation dividers, steel lockers
  • Aluminum ladders, outside sunshades
  • Old Teak wood awning, old Tamil window






Water filter from Swiss Cities; a sink from Portugal; glass flooring from Cyprus; steel lockers from Alsace

The secondary school launched in fall 2011 in Shanghai's Thames Town in the Songjiang district. A permanent reminder of this project and its participants will be built into the school, and the case will serve to educate YK Pao students on the importance of working together to save the environment. The sustainability spirit of Shanghai Expo 2010 will be 'seeded' everywhere across the schools’ 40,000 square meters of space - across classrooms, dormitories, the library, the book/coffee shop, offices, and outdoor garden areas. It stands as a physical demonstration of reuse for all YK Pao students.

“This is a wonderful way for our students to practice what they are learning about reuse in our environmental curriculum; it is a very realistic application to everyday life. The success of Expo 2010 Shanghai is becoming more and more apparent, as the seeds of the Green Expo values have been planted in our hearts and grow a little bit every day,” said Mr. Philip Sohmen, Co-Founder and Deputy Chairman of Governors of YK Pao School.












Photo by Billy Hustace

See press: English coverage by Cleaner Greener China, and Chinese coverage by Southern Metropolis Daily.


This section is excerpted from South China Morning Post 2010-10-30: http:// www.peopleforum.cn/viewthread.php?tid=46080

The city of Wuxi, in Jiangsu province, believes it has secured at least four key pavilions - enough to set up its own miniature expo park as a permanent attraction.

The Hong Kong pavilion - a small, shoebox-shaped building nestling in the shadow of the China pavilion - is one such pavilion which will not see a second life after the expo. Pavilion director Patrick Chan Chi-king told a recent press conference that although some of the pavilion's exhibits would be returned to Hong Kong, the actual structure would have to be destroyed. "Much of the building is made of glass, and so there is no way for it to be reused," Chan said.

Taiwan, for instance, has signed a NT$459 million (HK$116.13 million) deal with Hsinchu, a city in the northwest of the island. The building is to be relocated to an old fertilizer factory, where it will be the focus of a new industrial innovation park.

France is considering proposals from "seven to eight Chinese cities" that want to be the pavilion's new home. "They need to fund the relocation costs, but the building will be free," a French expo director, Florent Vaillot, said. "There are some very big cities and some small ones also. We will decide based on what applications they propose for the building."

The British pavilion, on the other hand, is due to be broken up and scattered. The building - one of the architectural highlights of the fair - is made up of more than 60,000 acrylic rods containing seeds from around the world. While about 1,000 will be sent to Chinese schools as part of an educational package, two-thirds of them are to be sold through the popular mainland auction site Taobao, with proceeds going to a Shanghai- based cerebral palsy charity.


Materials reuse and going green in general are not as easy as we would hope, either in China or around the world. All stakeholders agreed that a collaborative approach was necessary in tackling this type of project. As Raymond Lo remarked, "In YK Pao's case, if it were not for the efforts of the multi-stakeholder team, I doubt if the school would be able to pull this off within the time frame it did. This project has shown that it can be done, but only with clear commitment and support from various stakeholders involved."

This project required new approaches, out of the box thinking, and decision-making at each step. Strong top-down commitment and access to decision makers was critical to pushing through each challenge. In YK Pao's case, there were few decision makers; co- founder Philip Sohmen's unwavering support was crucial. In another example, PB oversaw the entire LEED adaptation program in Songdo City, a mega real-estate development in Incheon, Korea. "It's only because of the strong insistence from the beginning by developer Gale International that we were able to ensure that green designs and standards were upheld throughout the entire process from conceptual design to construction."

Getting all stakeholders motivated and committed to incorporate reuse into the new school building was a challenge. The on-the-ground project teams, architects, engineers, project managers and contractors - even the YK Pao school team- wary of using reuse materials given the extra time and energy costs involved. In the case of the India pavilion, a few large and unique decorative items were made from old teak wood. But given a cultural obsession with 'the new', contractors felt that it was cheaper and easier to build from new wood, thus missing the point of reusing items that could be linked back to the Expo pavilions.

In a project where all the team members came from different organizations, good planning efforts and project coordination were key to success. Whether it was Cindy calling regular team meetings, or Ryan working on the ground at the Expo with YK Pao architects and pavilions to coordinate detailed materials lists, or Peggy pulling together resources behind the scenes, regular communication was vital. Each hurdle threatened to derail the project if the team could not come together and agree on a solution. Philip Sohmen noted, "Reuse takes extra effort - but is rewarding as well as beneficial to the environment."

Many organizations, in addition to YK Pao, were interested in getting access to post-Expo materials. JUCCCE is interested in seeing collaboration around reuse of materials at events become standard practice in China. To facilitate more reuse, systemic change in event management is needed.

One possible way to scale this effort is to promote it to local government officials who could implement policies that encourage reuse, such as waiving taxes and requiring deconstruction companies to ensure reuse of all materials. Developers could be ordered to incorporate ease of deconstruction and reusability of materials in construction planning (sometimes called the life-cycle approach or cradle-to-cradle approach). Local government could work with a GIGA platform to make reuse and donations more centralized, more easily coordinated, and more transparent.


  1. What if other people read this and want to do similar things? Do local consultants exist (providing the role played by GIGA or S.H.E in this case) who could lead similar efforts?
  2. What can people learn from this case study? Why is it important? What has been learned that is helpful to others?
  3. What has been done that is new or groundbreaking?
  4. What are the larger takeaway lessons regarding the ease of material reuse in China?
  5. What will change in the future as a result of our work?
  6. YK Pao is a private school. Could this have been accomplished at a Chinese public school, and what similar or different setbacks might be anticipated?
  7. Is there something unique about the Expo materials that makes them easier/harder to reuse than material from other locations?
  8. For which kinds of events would this case prove most useful or informative?
  9. What are other reuse example programs we can learn from?