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UPDATED: February 28, 2011
Families Compete for Green Home Renovations

More than 60 green Beijingers auditioned for a chance to rebuild their homes as models for low-carbon living at the weekend.

Organized by environmental NGO Friends of Nature, the project will see 25 families given up to 10,000 yuan ($1,519) and expert support to make their houses more energy efficient.

Auditions, which started on Saturday, will be held every weekend until March 13, with the lucky winners revealed on March 25. Construction will run from May until July.

"Families with great designs and those who do excellent work in saving energy will get bonuses," said Chen Wanning, who is heading up the project. "Competitors will be required to share their construction and creations on a blog to better promote low carbon ideas."

Application forms are available at the auditions and on the Friends of Nature website. The more specific the information, the more chance a family has of being selected, said Chen. "Pictures of your house and details on energy usage of each family member are great pieces of information," she added.

Tian, a 42-year-old resident who attended Sunday's audition at Nanguan Park in Dongcheng district, said she was passionate about the project because it gives her a chance to make her home more energy efficient.

"I remember the water in Beijing was very clean in the 1990s. The rivers were always full, but now many rivers are just like ditches," said Tian, who lives near Dongzhimen and plans to decorate her second apartment in an environmentally friendly way.

"Water and other energy sources like electricity shouldn't be wasted in Beijing or anywhere else."

Water for washing vegetables can be used again to clean floors or flush toilets, she suggested, adding that she had also learned during the auditions that using the right paint can also contribute to a low-carbon lifestyle.

"Using poor quality paint means you have to alter temperatures inside the house," said Qiu Jizhe, a PhD candidate at Tsinghua University's center of energy saving studies, who is also involved in the project. He explained that, with the right paint, homes stay warmer during winter, reducing the need for heating.

Qiu was among a group of experts who promoted a low-carbon rebuilding competition in Taiwan in 2006. The 25 families who took part reduced their household energy use by at least 25 percent.

Green Beijing, the capital's three-year environmental plan, aims to make the city more energy efficient by 2012 and will involve promoting the low-carbon concept to large enterprises.

(China Daily February 28, 2011)

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