“It’s a routine for me to work in the countryside two days a week,” said “slashie” Jin Yuhang.
Jin is a designer of a state-owned architectural designing institute in Hangzhou, east China’s Zhejiang province. He has been employed as a part-time resident planner for Tianmushan township in Hangzhou’s Lin’an district since October 2018. Every week, he drives to work in the township 80 kilometers away from downtown Hangzhou for two workdays.
In Baihe village of Tianmushan township, neatly built new houses show a unique and attractive style belonging to canal towns in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River.
Jin joined the planning, designing, and construction of these houses, making them well integrated into the natural environment and surrounding structures in the village.
Villager Wang Zhihong is one who has benefited from the facelift. He has earned nearly 6,000 yuan ($893.4) by renting out the spare rooms of his house, which was designed and built by Jin.
According to Zhao Haifeng, deputy mayor of Tianmushan township, some rural structures in the township were once oversized and encroached on neighboring properties or roads, and some didn’t fit into the surrounding natural landscape or traditions.
To solve the problem, Zhejiang province, starting from June 2017, encouraged townships and subdistricts to invite resident planners to offer whole-process and multi-dimensional technical services and guidance on the planning, construction, and management of local structures.
Since 2017, Lin’an district has completed layout planning of 13 townships under its administration. Under the instruction of resident planners, the structures in all 222 local villages were built according to design drawings and fit well into the surroundings.
“Planning and designing are not just about office work. Great plans are made in the field,” Jin said, adding that many of his design plans were improved as a result of on-site investigations.
In early 2021, Tianmushan township planned to demolish an idle school building and construct a neighborhood service center at the original site. After a field trip was made, Jin suggested converting the main body of the school building into the neighborhood service center. He also came up with detailed transformation plans, including reinforcing the main body, installing elevator, and elderly-oriented modifications.
Finally, Jin’s plan was adopted for it avoided mass demolition and construction, shortened construction period and lowered general cost.
During the construction of the service center, Jin visited the construction site frequently to provide suggestions on the details of the construction chores, based on extensive solicitation of villagers’ opinions, such as the gradient of the ramp on road and the height of the fence for the playground.
Jin has also played a significant role in the transformation of Yueliangqiao village of Tianmushan township, which has been turned from an obscure mountainous village into a popular tourist destination featuring vintage-style B&B hotels and pleasant natural environment.
He has taken part in every step of the village’s transformation, from the formulation of development plan to the arrangement of ornamental tree species. He also inspected construction sites to make sure the project make steady progress, and participated in the acceptance inspection and evaluation of projects.
“The value of planning lies in implementation,” Jin said, explaining that resident planners must do a good job in the tasks following planning, such as reviewing construction drawings, management of construction, long-term operation, and maintenance, so as to ensure the smooth implementation of planning.
Last year, Yueliangqiao village received more than 200,000 visitors and saw its collective economic income exceed one million yuan. Meanwhile, families running B&B hotels in the village also significantly increased their income.
Since Jin was employed as a resident planner of Tianmushan township, he has reviewed more than 50 design plans and provided guidance for the implementation of over 30 projects. So far, he has offered more than 100 pieces of advice to relevant projects in the township, of which more than 90 percent have been adopted.
By providing suggestions and advice on adjustments to local planning and design plans, Jin has helped relevant projects save more than two million yuan in investment.
Currently, there are 1,099 resident planners like Jin working in 118 townships across Zhejiang province. They have provided local authorities and people with on-demand services for more than 4,200 times, which covered various aspects of rural development, including the implementation of planning and design, quality and safety management in construction, and development of industrial chain. They play an increasingly important role in improving the living environment of rural areas.