Eco Values Grow Near Beijing

December 30, 2011

U.S. firm Moore Ruble Yudell is master planning a huge development for China’s largest agriculture company.

By Laura Raskin

Agricultural Eco Valley
Image courtesy Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners

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China's largest agriculture company has hired California-based Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners (MRY) to master plan a 1,215-hectare agricultural and residential development 30 miles southwest of Beijing. The project, called the Agricultural Eco Valley, will be carbon-neutral.

With all of the recent tainted food scares in China, the client, COFCO, has a high stake in ensuring its brand is equated with food safety, says James Mary O'Connor, a MRY principal. "[COFCO sees] themselves as leading the way for green technology. Their idea is to do it as an experiment and hopefully duplicate it in lots of places in China." MRY is partnering on the project with Arup and the University of California Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.

Eco Valley sits on existing, but inefficient farmland in the Fangshan District near the Seventh Ring Expressway, the site of a future light-rail connection. It will feature low and high-density housing for 80,000 to 100,000 people; a hotel; exhibition center; golf course; restored wetlands; research labs; greenhouses; and an agricultural production zone where corn, barley, canola, soybeans, fruits, and vegetables will be grown. Free-range livestock areas are also included in the plan. The entire development will be surrounded by a "Ring of Discovery," which will accommodate multiple modes of transportation, including bikes and bio-fuel-powered buses.

If the endeavor is successful, it will be the first large-scale project showcasing sustainable food production. (Norman Foster's zero-waste Masdar City in Abu Dhabi has a renewable energy focus.) "It's a project that you dream up in the studio but you never believe a client will do," says O'Connor. "There has been massive development in China, mostly in real estate, but the government really wants to slow that down and find greener ways to do things. "

The first phase of the project - a conference center, housing for farmers, and some demonstration areas - may be complete in 2012 at the earliest. All phases will likely be done  by 2020, at an estimated cost of $300 million.

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