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Canadians Build Up-Scale Homes In China

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 27 March 2001 00:00

Since Canadians traditionally have an inferiority complex about most things Canadian, the international recognition Canada receives for expertise in housing and construction should go along way to make Canadians feel "house proud" in a national sense. According to the federal government's Canada Housing Export Centre , Canadian know-how is acknowledged in the United States, Japan, Germany, Chile, Poland, Korea and the United Kingdom. Currently, accolades for Canadian housing expertise come from China.

Canadian architectural firms DFS Inc. and Smith Carter Architects & Engineers, in joint venture, are in the spotlight for their design of the Rose Garden, an up-scale 350 to 400 house subdivision northwest of Beijing. The architectural team has already won an award from a Chinese landscape architectural organization for subdivision's central feature -- a park which took 1000 workers to complete.

The US$400,000 to US$1 million Rose Garden homes exhibit a unique blend of Canadian technology and feng shui , the ancient Chinese art of geomancy--deciding how and where to build a house or arrange a room so that you can live in harmony with your surroundings and celebrate health, happiness and prosperity.

Feng shui, which means "wind and water," is a way of life for the Chinese and influences the design and construction of Chinese cities, palaces, villages and cemeteries. If the orientation of a building clashes with contours of the land or the direction of a road, or if a door is poorly positioned, advocates believe the flow of the life-giving energy, chi, will be blocked and misfortune will result. Feng shui masters give the Rose Garden's development site a good rating.

House exteriors will reflect Canadian and North American styling. Since the climate of Beijing is similar to that of Toronto, many construction features -- vapour barrier, building envelope, and central air conditioning and heating (a first in Beijing) -- that make the Canadian "sweltering-summers, freezing-winters" climate bearable will be incorporated into these Chinese homes. The first five houses should be completed this spring, with 250 more homes expected to be finished by year end.

This joint-venture partnership is not the first for the two Canadian firms involved. Partners for over six years, DFS Inc.Architects, with offices in Montreal and Saint John, earned its reputation for buildings which include Ottawa's Chateau Laurier, while Winnipeg's Smith Carter Architects & Engineers Inc. has received acclaim for its work on Canadian embassies. Although planning for the subdivision began last August, the Rose Garden contract was formally signed in the presence of Prime Minister Jean Chrtien during the recent $5.7 billion Team Canada 2001 Mission to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. The partners also hope to develop social housing as part of their contribution to China's growth.

Canadian technology and expertise are important selling features to the Chinese, however, that's not the only reason that the architects themselves have received as much publicity as the Rose Garden project. They give credit for the attention to Dr. Henry Norman Bethune, a Canadian medical doctor who lived and died in China in the late 1930s.

Like many Canadians who achieve something worthwhile, Bethune was acknowledged as a national hero in China long before he received recognition in Canada. According to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, which inducted him in 1998, "Canada remembers Bethune as a medical genius, China reveres him as a saint." Bethune, known as Bai Quien to the Chinese, worked as a medic in the Sino-Japanese War and trained thousands of Chinese to become medics and doctors. Bethune invented a mobile blood bank that allowed him to perform countless blood transfusions in the midst of heavy fighting. In 1939, he died of blood poisoning, the result of a cut during battlefield surgery.

With Bethune's legacy and a population of more than 1.3 billion, China holds exciting prospects for the Canadian housing industry.

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PJ Wade

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