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Green Ideas, Green Actions: China's Eco-Revolution

GIGA is a brand-new nonprofit whose website launches this week. It stands for Green Ideas, Green Actions. Standard eco-fare, right? Except that it's coming out of a city of 20 million -- in China (where Huffington Post is often blocked).

We could start with the fact that over the next five years, more people will move into urban spaces in China than the entire population of the United States (an estimated 350 million).

Or we could start with a room in central Shanghai, in a place called BAU that you have to go down an alleyway off Fuxing road and up four flights of stairs to get to. There's free beer. There are 75 of Shanghai's best and brightest architects and businesspeople, fanning themselves in the Southeast Asian summer evening heat. And at the microphone Peggy Liu, "GIGAtalk's" guest speaker, draws together everyone from Bill Clinton to L'Oreal to China's first supermodel as she describes how her recently formed Joint US-China Cooperation on Clean Energy (JUCCCE) works toward clean and efficient energy use in China. It's GIGA that hosts these talks, and this is just the beginning of what GIGA has in store for Shanghai's design industries and indeed green building for China in general.

"The world knows that China produces many of our designed goods," explains GIGA Research Director Ryan Dick. "Increasingly, these goods are also being designed in China. Giving designers green tools supports restorative, environmentally positive design. I hope this takes root and resonates with the local population." Ryan hails from one of China's foremost green architecture firms, A00, and helped A00's Architecture Director, Raefer Wallis, to found GIGA last year. Raefer is a Canadian who's been pioneering sustainable design techniques in China since his arrival to Shanghai in 2001.

Sourcing green materials has always been difficult in China, so Raefer decided to share A00's green material database. GIGA quickly became a buzzword in Shanghai's design industry. Its comprehensive website will tell you first that GIGA a set of resources, not rules: GIGAbase (a database of available materials in China rated using a transparent, neutral analysis); GIGAtalks; and educational curriculum development for China. These tools support "China's future to be green, bright green" -- yet the utility of GIGA's building material evaluation and the spirit with which it looks at and works for a green future could work for the rest of the world, too.

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