Toward an Industrial Ecology for New Caofeidian

AN INDUSTRIAL ECOLOGY FOR NEW CAOFEIDIAN Professor: Nanako Umemoto nanako@reiser-umemoto.com Teaching Associate: Neil Cook neil@reiser-umemoto.comIntroduction: A Chinese model of development? \”China can no longer afford to follow the West\'s resources-hungry model of development and it should encourage its citizens to avoid adopting the developed world\'s consumer habits…It\'s important to make Chinese people not blatantly imitate Western consumer habits so as not to repeat the mistakes by the industrial development of the west over the past 300 years.\”– Pan Yue, Deputy Minister, State Environmental Protection Administration, 2004As China\'s leaders at the highest levels are creating a new vision of this emerging global power\'s urban future, an interest in the discipline of Industrial Ecology has emerged as a strategy for reducing the demand of its economy upon natural resources as well as the damage it causes to natural environments. Specific has been an interest in the concept of a \'circular economy\': this concept calls for very high efficiency in resource flows as a way of sustaining improvement in quality of life within natural and economic constraints. Combinations of industrial products and byproducts are utilized to the greatest ecological effectiveness, and wastes from one industry are utilized as raw materials for another. Intent on harnessing these interests and developing them into a new kind of urban fabric, the harbor city of New Caofedian was marked as a pilot area for the development of a Recyclable / Circular Economy in China in 2005. New Caofeidian is located in the Hebei Province, approximately 80 km from Tangshan city center, 30 km from the Tianjin area, and 200 km from the capital of Beijing. The area, which spans roughly 60 sq km, has recently been planned as an artificial island chain and land reclamation project, as well as a converted and concentrated economic development zone within the Bohai Bay, a rapidly expanding industrial and commerce area in Northern China. Its population is expected to swell to a population of 300,000 by 2010. The New Caofedian Urban Area will serve as a catalyst for the growth and densification of the cities of Beijing and Tianjin, augmenting the extensive existing industrial landscape of the Bohai Bay plain. Without a proper plan for increasing this density within the expansive geographic area, the region could face an uncontrolled lateral expansion which could lead to the proliferation of sprawling suburban neighborhoods, relentless generic urbanism, a destruction of habitat and forestry resources, and a degradation of cultural urban fabric, as we have seen in many other recently globalized cultures. A new vision is needed for the future of the Beijing / Tianjin / Tangshan City region – one which can come much closer to an imperative of environmental respect and responsible industrial development. However, we recognize that sustainability in and of itself is not an architectural value, and as such the moniker of \”green\” has become a signifier of a simplistic, standard-based, quantifiable design outcome: the discussion of such values as departure points for architecture or urban speculation, often leads to materializations of efficiency, rather than those of quality. This extant concept of sustainability is wholly dependent on an assumption of \”nature\” as some material which is in flux between a supremely positive pristine state and an adulterated, used, \”unnatural\” one. By these assumptions, successful design must either actually restore an environment to its pristine state, or remove or minimize traces of use so that its manipulation is disguised. As such, this allows architecture to function at only one end of the scale; to endeavor closer and c