Typical Working-Class Residential Building in Guangdong Province

      This page is a description of what I would consider to be a typical apartment building built between 15 and 30 years ago and where typical working class people would live. There is much residential construction taking place and I expect that newer buildings are better finished and furnished. This information is solely based on my personal observations during my trips to Guangdong province in the last few years so it may not be as general as I think.


    Blocks of apartments are quite close together and have gardens and walkways between them with very limited access for cars which may be able to get relatively close to make a delivery but cannot park except in the nearby street. Since most people use bicycles or motorcycles this is not a problem. Buildings of up to nine floors (counting the ground floor) have no elevator.


    The stairway is closed from the street by a locked door but is considered by the residents to be like the street in the sense that it is not finished or kept clean like the inside of the apartments. This neighbor has beautified a few inches around his doorway but this is rare. Note the metal gate outside of the regular wooden door. Outside of the normal wooden door apartments generally have a metal gate with bars. This provides additional security and in hot weather the inside door can be left open and the outside gate allows air circulation while providing security. This is based on traditional Cantonese style where a wooden grate slid across the doorway.


The stairway is full of posters advertising plumbers and other services.


    Water meters are electronically connected to data lines so they can be read remotely.


    The white box is a connection box for the water meters.



Motorcycle parking watched round the clock by a guard.

This neighbor has the old metal, sliding grill plus a newer metal door outside which is considered to provide more protection.


    The neighbors deposit their trash in buckets in the landings and the municipal workers come up the stairs to collect the garbage.
    Water pipes and meters and TV, telephone and internet cables and junction boxes are all abundant and very visible. Water meters are electronically connected to data lines so they can be read remotely.


    A connection box for wideband Internet and a fire hose

Cables and pipes are all visible.

    Many, if not most, apartments have air conditioning and it is mostly of the split type while the "window unit" type are less common. The apartments in the picture all have split units even though the building has boxes for the self-contained window type units.
    Apartments have one or two large balconies, almost always enclosed by bars, which are used for hanging laundry to dry, placing the clothes' washer, general storage and extension of living space. The two apartments in the mid-lower right which nave no A/C amd no bars are, clearly, uninhabitted.

    The inside of the apartments is very simply finished. The floors are tile and the walls plaster.

    The electrical wiring is flat, flexible (multistrand) cable stapled flat to the wall and switches and outlets are all surface mounted. If tile is added later in the kitchen or bathroom it will cover the cable. This system would probably not meet European or American building codes. In the photo the main circuit breaker and distribution panel can be seen on the right.

    As built the bathroom would have no water heater or wash-basin and these items might be installed later by the occupant but the plumbing will be jury-rigged. Here we see the washbasin is supplied by a plastic hose and it drains via another hose which just ends near the floor drain.
    The water and gas pipes run outside the walls. In this case tile was later added and it covers part of the thickness of the pipe. A couple of faucets are provided without any thought or design for their placement. Quarter-turn shut-off valves are often used instead of multi-turn valves which allow better flow control.

    The bathroom has a hole-in-the-floor type toilet and a drain in the floor for the shower. In this case the sewer pipe on the left had a leak in the floor above and sewer water had been running down the outside of the pipe for years which had built up a thick deposit covering the entire pipe. The stench was awful and it is telling that it had not been repaired over the years. The Chinese seem to have a very high tolerance for foul smells.     In this photo we see the water heater has been cheaply jury-rigged. It is not directly vented to the outside which would probably not meet European or American building codes. The water goes from the old shower-head to the water heater and then to a hand-held shower. The washbasin and the kitchen sink do not have hot water which is limited to the shower.

    The kitchen generally has no cabinets, only some brick and tile counters. The sink drains directly into a drain in the floor.
    Cooking is done on a countertop stove with one or two burners. They do not have or use ovens for cooking.

    Here the plumbing was done without thought or design and a couple of faucets were provided randomly. When the counter was later built it turned out that none of the faucets were over the sink so a plastic hose was used to supply the faucet which is held in place by a blob of plaster wedged between the sewer pipe and the wall.
    Another faucet ended oddly placed just over the gas burner.