China is the largest building construction market in the world, with up to 2 billion square meters constructed annually, accounting for nearly half of new construction globally in the coming decade.

In 2011, buildings accounted for just 28% of China’s energy consumption but urbanization, economic growth and rising population could increase this number by as much as 40% over the next 15 years. The adoption of green building technologies and solutions is a key part of China’s sustainability and environmental protection goals.

China’s 13th Five Year Plan for Building Energy Efficiency and Green Building Development includes aggressive goals for green building construction and renovation, including a requirement for 50% of all new urban buildings to be certified green buildings. The plan also specifies pilot programs for constructing and renovating energy efficient primary and secondary schools, community hospitals and public buildings.

As the national Five Year Plan is cascaded to provincial and municipal jurisdictions, nearly 20 cities have set even more ambitious targets. For example, Changde, Zhenjiang, Zibo, Wuxi, and Suzhou, Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, and Chongqing will require all new commercial buildings to be green buildings. In the pursuit of even more sustainable buildings, more than 90% of China's commercial building owners plan to have at least one net or near-zero energy building in the next ten years.

National plans, policies and targets are important drivers of investment and improvement. Still, significant challenges remain in implementation at a city and district level, such as training, business models, financial solutions and access to information.

Public-private partnerships continue to be one of the most effective ways of overcoming these barriers. The East Asia launch of the Building Efficiency Accelerator (BEA), a global public-private partnership coordinated by the World Resources Institute (WRI), was held at the Thirteenth International Conference on Green and Energy-Efficient Building in Beijing.

The launch included government, private-sector and civil society stakeholders and showcased the building efficiency policy best practices of three leading Chinese districts – Changning District, Wuxi City High-Tech Industrial Development Zone and Suzhou Taihu New City, as well as the BEA partner cities of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and Iskandar, Malaysia.

The Changning District deployed an energy monitoring platform that now tracks 160 of the district’s 165 public buildings. To date, 32 buildings have been retrofitted to achieve an average 20% energy saving. The district also provided subsidies to building managers, which in turn encouraged building managers to invest an additional 140 million yuan ($20.33 million USD) to improve building efficiency.

Wuxi City High-Tech Industrial Development Zone provided incentives for new buildings that are certified to the US Green Building Council’s LEED or China’s national three-star rating systems. Buildings that achieve the highest green building ratings in either certification program receive up to 500,000 yuan with similar incentives provided for the use of heat pumps, solar photovoltaic systems, and other clean energy technologies.

The Suzhou Taihu New City will house 200,000 residents and all buildings will be designed to receive at least a two-star rating from China’s three-star rating system. The city will also boast a green building demonstration area, constructing several projects like zero-energy schools and monitoring of the building’s energy performance.

Another important public-private partnership is the US-China CERC Building Energy Efficiency consortium. The CERC-BEE consortium is a collaborative partnership between leading U.S. and China researchers at national laboratories, research institutes, universities and 48 industry partners to advance the state-of-the-art in low-carbon and near zero energy buildings.

The new Johnson Controls Headquarters Asia Pacific will be a living laboratory for the company’s CERC-BEE research activities focused on advanced energy monitoring and control, indoor air quality management and building-to-grid integration. Finally, the facility will be used to convene public roundtables and forums to share industry best practices that can help local and provincial governments in China and across the region accelerate their urban efficiency initiatives.

As cities grow, those of us in the buildings space - be it the public or private sector - have an obligation to work together to implement green building technologies and solutions. It’s an effective solution to rising concerns over sustainability and environmental protection, particularly in high-growth markets like China.

Alex Molinaroli, Chairman and CEO, Johnson Controls, is a Co-Chair of the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2017.