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The pavilions in the Urban Best Practices Area (UBPA) display the vision of future urbanization from over 70 cities from all over the world. The focus here is on livable cities, sustainable urbanization, cultural heritage, and technological innovations. The massive amount of cutting-edge technology on display here makes this one of the most interesting sections of the entire Expo. It is also probably the most underestimated section. That combined with the walkthrough nature of the pavilions means waiting in line is somewhat rare. Some of the highlights include:


Panda Topiaries at the Chengdu Case Pavilion - UBPA Expo 2010

This pavilion is a miniature version of the Chengdu Living Water Park in downtown Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. This park collects rainwater and sewage, and purifies it using an artificial wetland. This water purification system doesn't require the use of any electricity or chemicals, and it not only provides an example of natural and energy efficient waste water treatment, but also helps educate visitors about the importance of our natural wetlands. 

Chengdu Living Water Park - World Expo UBPA

The title for this case is "Zero-carbon Community," and its prototype is the Beddington Zero Energy Development, known better as BedZED. Located in the London Borough of Sutton, BedZED is a high-density housing development that is designed to support a more sustainable lifestyle. It features energy-efficient buildings, and seeks to achieve zero carbon emission through the use of renewable energy. 11% of its electricity is produced using solar panels. The remainder is to be produced by a combined-heat-and-power (cogeneration) plant, but this has been delayed because of financial problems for the installation company.

London Case Pavilion - Zero Energy Development - 2010 Expo Shanghai UBPA

The London Case Pavilion has six different styles of of zero-carbon showhouses, an auditorium, showroom, and a restaurant. There are also a series of activities that promote saving energy. Solar panels and wind turbines produce electricity, and its green roof also includes wind cowls that provide passive ventilation combined with heat recovery.

BedZED green roof UBPA Shanghai World Expo

Named Hamburg House, this is the first certified Passive House to be built in China. A Passive House is any ultra-low energy building that meets the rigorous Passivhaus standard created by the Passivhaus-Institute in Darmstadt, Germany. This standard results in a space heating energy savings of 75-95% compared to buildings that meet the US 2003 Model Energy Efficiency Code.

Hamburg House UBPA Shanghai World Expo

I have also been fortunate enough to visit the first certified Passive House in the US, the BioHaus, which is located at Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji, Minnesota. The BioHaus uses 85% less energy than a house built to Minnesota building codes. To read more about the BioHaus and Passive House technology visit:

Inside Hamburg House there are a variety of exhibits on display, including many of the building materials used in its construction. There is also a huge red "Tree of Good Wishes" that winds its way through all four stories of the pavilion. Although this was the only pavilion in the UBPA that we had to wait in line to visit, it was definitely worth it. For more information about Hamburg House you can visit their website:

Shanghai's Eco House is powered by solar and wind energy. That combined with a geothermal heating and cooling system give this pavilion a zero-carbon footprint.

Shanghai Case Pavilion - Eco House - 2010 Expo Shanghai UBPA

Visitors are greeted at the entrance with a music performed by robots playing traditional Chinese instruments. From there, they explore rooms designed for various types of families. There are areas for married couples, families with small children, and the elderly. Each room is filled with high-tech appliances that residents can control remotely using their cell phones.

 Robot Wheelchair

One of the more fascinating inventions was in the section dedicated to the elderly. When approaching the bedroom, visitors see what appears to be a robot designed to assist the elderly or disabled. However, when viewed from another angle, it is revealed to be a wheelchair with a rear-facing robot. Although I've seen pictures of wheelchairs with robotic arms before, this was one of those many times at Expo I found myself thinking "what a great idea."

Wheelchair Robot

This 3-story glass and wood pavilion seeks to promote Vancouver not only as one of the world's most livable cities, but also as a tourist destination, and an international hub for green business. Visitors start their visit with a 3-minute video of a day in Vancouver from sunrise to sunset. From there visitors explore the city of Vancouver, its people, and its environmental initiatives.

Vancouver Pavilion - 2010 Expo Shanghai

Vancouver is one of the few cities in the world that have openly set a goal to become the greenest city in the world, and their pavilion shows how they intend to achieve this goal. While other pavilions focus on advanced technology and innovative construction methods, Vancouver's pavilion features a very low-tech construction material...wood.

Wood is a good insulator, it is strong, lightweight, and flexible. Wood-frame buildings are earthquake resistant, and with good forestry management, wood is a sustainable building material. Wood also has the advantage that while the tree is growing, it sequesters carbon dioxide.

This pavilion is designed to look look like Daming Palace, which was a political, economic, and cultural center during the Tang Dynasty. Now in ruins, archaeological excavations have been on-going since the 1950s in an attempt to protect the area's cultural heritage. Now it is a model for harmonious coexistence between urban life and cultural heritage. In the pavilion, visitors can tour the palace as it was 1300 years ago through a 3-D experience.

Xi'an Case Pavilion - 2010 Expo Shanghai UBPA


Joint pavilions are large structures that contain several smaller pavilions. Despite their smaller size, many of these pavilions are very good, and joint pavilions are a great way to see a lot of cool stuff in a short period of time.

This is an excellent pavilion. This city pavilion has more technology on display than all but a handful of countries. Among the technology on display are an electric car, an advanced underwater ROV (remotely operated vehicle), an LED light that looks like a standard incandescent bulb, and models of wind wind turbines and next generation heavy lift marine vessels. There is also a display featuring a non-toxic biomimetic ship coating that mimics the skin of a shark to help keep ship hulls clean without the use of toxic chemicals.

ROV at Bremen Case Pavilion - 2010 Expo Shanghai UBPA

Freiburg is located in Germany's Black Forest, and is a major tourist hub. Environmental protection has long been a major priority there, and their Expo pavilion reflect this, as well as their Black Forest culture. Upon entering, I noticed a number of cuckoo clocks on a wall with a floor to ceiling picture of the Black Forest. Every hour the cuckoo clocks "sing" German or Chinese folk songs, classical music by Beethoven, or a modern composition by Alexander Grebtschenko of the Freiburg Music Academy. Since I wasn't here at the top of the hour, I didn't hear any of them.

The rest of the walls of the pavilion are lined with information about various technologies and environmental initiatives designed to protect Freiburg's pristine environment. There is a strong emphasis on reducing the number of cars, which is difficult in a country famous for its Autokult (auto cult). This is achieved through excellent public transportation, encouraging car sharing, and massive pedestrian zones. There is also information about Freiburg's extensive use of solar and wind power.

Freiburg Case Pavilion - 2010 Expo Shanghai UBPA

Near the exit of the pavilion, there is another cuckoo clock, but the bird on this one doesn't cuckcoo at the top of the hour. Instead, visitors can make this bird cuckoo at any time using electricity generated from body heat using a thermogenerator. Visitors place their hand over the symbol of a hand, and when enough energy has been produced, the bird pops out and makes the famous cuckoo sound.

The main attraction here is a 5-minute movie about the transformation of a landfill into the Saint-Michel Environmental Complex. The movie screen is composed of 720 movable blocks that create a 3D effect without the need for glasses.

Montreal Pavilion - 2010 Expo Shanghai UBPA

After leaving the theater, visitors move through an exhibits area with detailed information about Montreal's environmental protection and the companies located within the Saint-Michel Environmental Complex.

This pavilion's theme is "Protection and Utilization of Historical Heritages: Urban Best Practices in Venice." It attempts to recreate the experience of walking the through the streets of this famous canal city. There is also a gallery featuring artistic creations from the city as well as a store selling souvenirs.

Venice Pavilion - 2010 Expo Shanghai

Upon entering this pavilion, you walk down a hallway lined with small double-sided light boxes with pictures of Hangzhou residents on one side and quotations from them on the other. Of course all the writing was in Chinese, so I just moved on to the next section.

The focus of this pavilion is the relationship between water and people's lives, including harnessing the five waters of Hangzhou (the West Lake, Grand Canal, Xixi Wetlands, Qiantang River, and the East China Sea). There are also many nice bronze sculptures depicting life in ancient Hangzhou. 

Hangzhou Pavilion - 2010 Expo Shanghai UBPA

Featuring traditional Chinese architecture, this pavilion is absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, it was very dark, so I wasn't able to take many pictures. The display area of the pavilion featured local products such as jade carving, embroidery, and nut shell carving. There was a movie on the second floor featuring beautiful Taihu Lake.

Since my mother was in a wheelchair, we had to use what is by far the smallest elevator I've ever seen. It was barely big enough for me and the wheelchair. Only the floor moved, so I had to be careful to not touch the walls as we moved through the elevator shaft like a plunger in a square metal syringe.

Suzhou Pavilion - 2010 Expo Shanghai


We tried to visit the Pavilion of Future, but they were already closed for the night. As we walked towards the Expo's exit, we passed by the China Aviation Pavilion, and decided to see if they were still accepting visitors. They were, but only for the exhibits area. This area was nice but the main attraction of this pavilion is their ride and flight simulators.

There are four different entrances to this pavilion depending on who you are, and what you want to see. We entered through the VIP entrance, which also serves as the wheelchair entrance.

Aviation Pavilion - Shanghai World Expo

The main entrance is for their ride, and it is generally very long. After watching a short movie about a young girl that dreams of flying, visitors "take off" on a ride that flies visitors through 9 scenes about the future of aviation. The ride uses a trackless vehicle that has an independently moving carriage. This is the same technology used in rides like "Spiderman" at Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure in Orlando. The scenes are in "4-D" and combine real elements with 3D movies. Special effects like water, wind, and fog are also used. Although I unfortunately missed this ride, it is generally considered one of the best of the entire Expo.

China Aviation Pavilion at night - 2010 Expo Shanghai

There is a seperate entrance for the flight simulators, and the line for this can be very long. There are only four simulators, and people literally run to this pavilion to get in line when the Expo opens. The simulators themselves look pretty nice (you can see them from the exhibits area) and they take pilots and one passenger on a "directed" flight between Shanghai's two airports with a visit to the World Expo Park in the middle. A larger simulator accommodates small groups, but doesn't allow visitors to pilot their own plane. The pavilion also has a professional military flight simulator, but only VIPs get to use it.


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