Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP (SOM) has just unveiled details of the first phase for the expansion and redevelopment of three business districts in China's capital city, Beijing. Key to the success of the project is the installation of a Central Park area which will help to heat and cool energy efficient buildings in the Dawangjing District by geothermal exchange instead of relying on energy-intensive cooling towers.

After beating off stiff competition to have its plan for the expansion of the Beijing Central Business District win an international design competition late last year, SOM (the same company that designed "The Ledge", a glass walk out on floor number 103 of Chicago's Sears Tower, that's 1,353 feet straight up!) has now unveiled its vision for the first of the three districts earmarked for redevelopment.

Sited just over 11 kilometers from Beijing's Capital International Airport, the Dawangjing District is to benefit from a geothermal heat-exchange system installed as part of a Central Park recreation area to help passively regulate the temperature of the surrounding high density office blocks and residential towers. The green space sets the tone for the whole carbon-cutting, sustainable feel of SOM's overall project, which also envisions 80% of journeys in the area being undertaken by public transport, on foot or by bicycle.

A network of bicycle lanes throughout the District will be complemented by a new public transport infrastructure, including a regular tram service, aimed at keeping automotive pollution and congestion to an absolute minimum. It is intended that the tram lines would eventually link together all three of the expanded, redeveloped business districts. Commuters, residents and visitors will no doubt find the provision of transit stations along the M15 subway line a boon too, allowing for quick and easy access to the airport.

The creation of green spaces and traffic reducing transport initiatives continues through to the wider expansion plans which will, it is claimed, result in a 50 per cent reduction in District energy consumption, water needs by 48 per cent, landfill waste by a massive 80 per cent and eliminate some 215,000 tons of carbon dioxide pollution per year.