China’s first carbon neutral hotel has many green claims to its name, and has also adopted a local approach, offering an authentic experience inspired by traditional China. Text by Julie Martin.
Think ‘green building’ and for most of us Shanghai does not come immediately to mind.
This centrepiece of the world’s fastest-growing economy has grown from humble beginnings as a fishing and textiles township to become the world’s largest cargo port – a title it claimed in 2005 – and a city with a population to rival Australia’s.
Economic reforms in the early 1990s precipitated a building boom that defines today’s city skyline – a silhouette of Jetson-esque skyscrapers topped with flying saucer observation decks – and continues still in what Australian developer Jules Kwan (founding partner of Space Development) calls a “build it as fast as you can and as cheap as you can” mentality.
Pioneering Shanghai’s movement towards sustainable building, Space Development set out with Shanghai-based Canadian architects, A00 to turn a former prosthetics factory then post office into a 26-room sustainably-built boutique retreat that trumped all expectations by claiming the title of China’s first carbon neutral hotel, among numerous other accolades, in its first year of operation.
“The driving force behind the URBN Hotel was to build something that captured a uniquely Shanghai experience,” says Kwan, “and to do it in a way that was least damaging to the environment. We went carbon neutral as part of our evolving sustainable philosophy. It was not a trophy we set out to acquire.”
For the full text turn to page 218 of Indesign #42 on newsstands now.
Photography by Hans Schlupp