Not Just Another Brick in the Wall

The façade of a new dwelling in Wangyu, built with energy-efficient bricks.

Wang Jingli has lived in the region around Wangyu village in China’s Hebei province for almost thirty years. The region, located in the mountainous area north of Shihe District, Qinhuangdao is famous for cherry cultivation and rural tourism. Wangyu’s local population of 938 used to live across five separate villages. In the past, the village residents had to cope with a lack of public facilities and social infrastructure such as inadequate drainage, non-existent central heating and no public green spaces.

Residents used to rely on firewood and coal to stay warm and cook as central-heating and a centralized gas supply wasn’t established.  As a result, winter for people like Wang Jingli was especially difficult as their families tried to keep warm and, at the same time, reduce household energy consumption and keep their electricity bills under control.

In 2012, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China with the Ministry of Agriculture and Global Environmental Facility (GEF) launched the Market Transformation of Energy Efficient Bricks and Rural Buildings (MTEEBRB) project. As part of this initiative, this project site aims to promote energy conservation, environmental protection, low carbon consumption, village aesthetics and comfortable living in Wangyu village. The project witnessed the relocation of residents from the five villages into Wangyu’s new village that utilizes energy efficient materials for dwellings, solar technology, ovens and methane utilization amongst other energy conserving initiatives. In addition, a new biogas station has been established in the northeast of the village which has become the main fuel provider for local residents.

Highlights

  • An estimated 594,000 energy-efficient bricks for 241 households were required for the project, covering a total area of 11,000 square meters. The use of energy efficient bricks has reduced the overall energy demand in Wangyu by around half
  • The project helped establish National Standards of Fired Perforated Bricks/Blocks, expanding the market for energy efficient bricks and eliminating the market for traditional materials used on walls
  • Another 20 villages around China have been earmarked for similar development to that in Wangyu.

Through the implementation of the project and utilization of energy-efficient bricks in new dwellings, the people of Wangyu can now stay warm without costing the earth in electricity bills. Wang Jingli’s entire family recently moved into a newly constructed rural house that is more than 200 square meters. "Our family is thrilled to live in a home built using energy-efficient bricks, we no longer need to worry about the energy bill, especially for my ninety year old mother, who can not bear cold weather. Our lives are so much better now," Wang said.

Wangyu’s new village is constructed for 241 households covering 11,000 square meters with an estimated 594,000 energy-efficient bricks. The program has greatly benefited the people of Wangyu, by enhancing energy efficiency and reducing overall energy demand by around 50 percent. 

The newly constructed two-story houses use energy efficient bricks, which help retain the warmth during the winter and cool the house during the summer. At no more than 1,200 Yuan, the annual energy bill per household is now more affordable than it used to be. Additionally, the entire village is working hard to adopt energy efficient techniques. For example, the biogas station processes cow manure into liquid fertilizer for the cherry trees.

In 2012, the project also helped establish new national standards, expanding the market for energy efficient bricks and eliminating traditional materials used on walls. Based on lessons learned from the project, the Ministry of Agriculture proposed the National Standards of Fired Perforated Bricks/Blocks to the National Standardization Committee, defining a set of rules and regulations for energy efficient bricks/blocks. The standards eliminated the market for traditional wall materials, promoting a more environmentally-friendly alternative - energy efficient bricks.

Another 20 villages around China have been earmarked for similar development to that in Wangyu.  This will ensure the ongoing adoption of energy conserving practices in households and villages like Wang Jingli’s around the country.

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