Prefabs breathe new life into nation's rural areas

Updated: Apr 9, 2019 China Daily Print
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It is now possible to check into a homestay that was erected just 24 hours previously.

Earth House, a company headquartered in Changsha county, Hunan province, produces container-like accommodations at its factory, then transports the units to specified locations when required.

"To ensure maximum portability, there are no on-site operations, such as bricklaying or logging, involved in the installation, which reduces environmental damage," Su Yao, director of operations, said.

"The unit is equipped with a sewage management system in its base, through which wastewater can be recycled."

The container is a standardized, integrated product that includes functional spaces such as a restroom, a living room and a bedroom in its 30-something square meters. Each unit costs 300,000 yuan to 400,000 yuan ($44,650 to $59,600) to manufacture, according to Su.

"The container can be installed on a riverside or in woods to provide guests with a nice view and a safe living experience. It's also assembled taking local conditions into consideration to balance environmental protection and the amenities," he said.

Gao Guoyou, a former interior designer and decorator, founded Earth House in 2015. In the past four years, he has shaped the company into a rural homestay builder, emphasizing environmental protection, smartness and respect for the location's culture.

"Traditional construction always causes some environmental damage, so I came up with a sustainable solution for house or hotel construction," he said in an interview with China Central Television.

Earth House has also been involved in tourism-driven poverty alleviation work by helping to invigorate economically backward villages.

Its first partner was Shibadong, a village in Huayuan county, Hunan, which was included in Earth House's plans after the company signed a cooperation agreement with the provincial department of culture and tourism in June 2017.

Su said the village has breathtaking natural views, but until recently a lack of hotels and homestays meant tourists only stayed a few hours.

"Now, we have eight bedrooms open to the public, so travelers can stay overnight. Homestays create jobs for local residents who work as waiters and cooks," he said.

In September, the company helped to breathe new life into Arxan, a county-level city in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, by helping the residents build a homestay.

Arxan's Bailang township is listed as a State-level pilot zone for tourism-driven poverty alleviation work. However, it is isolated by heavy snow for nearly half of the year, which hindered economic development in the past.

Su said the Hunan Broadcasting System helped to lift the villagers out of poverty after it used the settlement as the location for a reality show focused on homestay management. Filming and broadcasting the construction of a homestay began in October and lasted until January.

"The tight schedule and harsh environment meant installing the homestay was an exhausting experience," Su said.

The 1,176.55-square-meter homestay, which was completed in just 33 days, was donated to the residents.

Su said the facility will open to the public this year, and the company will continue to help the villagers to manage it.

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