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£1.2tn Chinese market ripe for UK firms with offsite and prefab experience

The head of research at China’s biggest developer Vanke has said offsite and prefabricated experience will be crucial to UK construction firms looking to enter the Chinese market.

Vanke’s research and development director Wang Yun told CN that Chinese developers are in the market to import UK construction technology, and admitted that Chinese contractors are eyeing opportunities in the UK.

Ms Yun was speaking on a visit to the Building Research Establishment’s headquarters in Watford.

Vanke is looking for UK housing firms to enter a competition that could secure them exclusive access to the £1.2 trillion Chinese housing market.

The firm, China’s biggest real estate developer by market share, is seeking UK companies to develop the first residential building on the Beijing Green Building Park (pictured).

Ms Yun said Vanke has been in contact with some UK contractors already, and hailed their experience in offsite and prefabricated construction as a crucial advantage in gaining access to China.

Following the signing of an accord between BRE and Vanke at the UK-China Summit in June 2011, the Beijing Green Building Park – part of the BRE Innovation Parks Network – is now being constructed.

Competition for Beijing Green Building Park

Vanke is looking for consortia to develop the first residential building on the park. The aim is to showcase sustainable residential construction, demonstrating innovative design and product solutions to meet and drive the demand for sustainable development in China and around the world.

Winning consortia will consist of several major material or product suppliers teaming up with architectural or multidisciplinary design practices or existing developers. They will build their future home design on the high-profile Beijing Green Building Park in 2014.

Following completion of the PQQ, the shortlisted consortia will be invited to a workshop at BRE where they will present their proposals to Vanke. A number of finalists will be asked to visit China to demonstrate their fully developed plans and designs, after which Vanke will award the first plot.


Ms Yun said: “The Beijing Green Building Park has opened a platform from which we want to import more high-end technology and construction. We hope to demonstrate new technologies from the UK and the rest of the world.

“It will help to use this opportunity to let our customers know what a green building or a sustainable development is. It is not only developers [we want to talk to] but manufacturers and contractors.”

Vanke is also in talks with BRE over using its BREEAM standard for laboratory buildings. China currently uses a three-star environmental rating system.

BRE director of enterprise & innovation Jaya Skandamoorthy said that gaps had been identified in the Chinese market that needed to be addressed on technology and research.


The BRE-Vanke tie-up came about when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited BRE for a 40-minute tour of its Watford base as part of a three-day trip to the UK in 2011.

Mr Skandamoorthy said: “Having visited the park, he was impressed by the quality of construction and the level of innovation showcased. He ended up staying for three hours; he delayed his flight as he wanted to understand better how we achieved such high-quality building.”


Construction started at the Beijing site in March, and while Mr Skandamoorthy admits international firms are desperate to get involved, it is primarily a UK-China initiative.

He said: “It is important to honour the commitment at the summit and [Vanke] has held back other international companies and are giving opportunities to British companies to get involved first.

“It will make choices based on merit. If we don’t perform, so be it, but we have fantastic things to show. The Olympics is a fantastic example of what we can do and the legacy of that can be brought into China.”

While BRE is the home of BREEAM, the Chinese green building system rates buildings on a three-star system.

Vanke has built projects to three-star level but has a plan for all its buildings from 2015 to achieve this rating.

Mr Skandamoorthy said the new sustainable building at the Beijing Green Building Park will effectively go beyond that to a four-star level.

Although Vanke is the biggest residential developer in the world, it still commands only 4 per cent of the Chinese housing market and other Chinese developers will visit the Beijing site to see the work of UK companies.

Mr Skandamoorthy said it would be important to be tough on the PQQ stage, to ensure BRE was not putting forward UK firms that “don’t have the ability to be successful”.

He added that product manufacturers want to do business in China, as well as building solutions providers. Turnkey contractors, architects and designers could all break into the market, he said.

He also refused to rule out major contractors like Lend Lease getting involved.

“Vanke has gaps in its supply chain but it wants to go beyond that and develop new consortia to complement its existing business. The housing will become a showcase for every other developer visiting to do business with them.

“There is an element of helping to manage the risk of ideas being stolen because of the profile of the park with the government looking at it.”

For more details on Vanke’s search for UK housing firms, call 01923 664348.

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