China is the world's largest energy consumer and carbon emitter and is facing severe environmental consequences. Most of China's emissions source from an industrial sector dominated by heavy industries, many of which produce various building materials. Chinese buildings total nearly 50 billion square meters in area and new construction represents half of the world's total each year, with expansion expected to continue through 2050. Buildings in China currently have a lifetime of only roughly 30 years, with much higher material intensity than their international counterparts. This has significant impact on driving the production of building materials such as concrete and cement, glass, steel, and aluminum, and has important implications for the development of policies such as building codes and labels.
This paper presents a new methodology for projecting the growth in China's building floor area to 2050 and the implications of this growth for building materials and total energy demand. We identify key socioeconomic drivers of growth in residential and commercial building floor area and developed a building stock turnover model to predict annual new construction floor area. We then use typical material intensities and energy intensities to calculate demand for building materials and related energy demand to produce these building materials. The methodologies developed in this study provide a solid foundation for forecasting China's building stock growth in the absence of consistent historical data. Such forecasts will help assess future building energy demand. The results of our study underscore the importance of addressing building material efficiency, improving building lifetime and quality, and promoting compact urban living to reduce building energy consumption and associated emissions in China.