Feb 24

The Oregonian reports:

In rural Huangbaiyu, a project hailed as “a demonstration village” of sustainable living has instead become a demonstration of Western intentions gone wrong.

In 2005, the Portland-based China-U.S. Center for Sustainable Development broke ground on a project in a remote area of Liaoning province with the hope of creating China’s first “eco-village.”

Led by green architect William McDonough, who co-chairs the Portland center and lives in Virginia, the project promised to be a model for how Chinese villages could preserve farmland and reduce their environmental impact.

In a village of 400 families, 42 homes were to be built in the village center, rather than on outlying farmland. They were to be made of biodegradable products such as hay and pressed-earth bricks and include such features as solar panels, donated by corporate sponsors to showcase green products. Each house was supposed to cost about $3,500, low enough for villagers to afford.

Four years later, the completed homes have cosmetic flaws and are not up to the envisioned green standards. Only one unit has a solar panel, and each home contains a storage unit or garage in a village where few people have cars. And because construction costs soared to between $6,000 and $10,000 a home, they are out of reach for most villagers.

“It became apparent that it wasn’t cost effective to do solar panels in a rural village,” says Joe Marcotte, program manager for the China-U.S. Center. “To this day, we don’t know what the accurate cost of the homes are.”

Read the rest here.

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