China takes lead in race for skyscrapers

China takes lead in race for skyscrapers

China’s domination of world tall-building industry

In 2013, Asia dominated the world tall-building industry with 74% of worldwide completions and 53 buildings, and has 45% of 100 tallest buildings in the world, says an annual review by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

China heads Asia’s almost obsessive race for constructing tall buildings, and last year completed 37 over two hundred-metres high. The buildings were spread across 22 cities. Shenzhen was the most active, doubling its number of completions from the previous year, closely followed by Chongqing and Shanghai.



Nanjing, Shenyang, Suzhou, Hefei, Tianjin, Nanning, Xiamen and Guangzhou each claimed two completions, and of these, Hefei and Xiamen are first-timers that until 2013 never contained buildings of this scale. The 332-metre Modern Media Center in Chanzhou was the tallest building to complete in 2013.

And the race continues.

At 632 metres (2,073 foot) high, Shanghai Tower will be the 2nd tallest in the world and the tallest in China. The megatall was due to open this year, but looks more likely to do so in 2015. Designed by US architects Gensler and located in Shanghai’s Lujiazui commercial district, the 121-floor mixed-use building has a curved façade and spiralling form that, according to its designers, will symbolise the emergence of China as a global financial power.

The tower’s asymmetrical form, tapering profile and rounded corners allow it to withstand typhoon-force winds common to the city. Its refined form also reduced building wind loads by 24% and the lightness of the structure saved $58 million on materials. The “vertical city” will accommodate offices and hotels, observation and cultural facilities, and the world’s fastest express elevators.

The scale and complexity of the building is said to have created a number of firsts for China’s construction industry. These include using a fleet of trucks that pumped concrete into the massive mat foundation for 63 continuous hours.

It also boasts a number of green initiatives, such as a glass skin that admits maximum daylight and reduces the need for electric lighting, 270 wind turbines to power its exterior lighting, and landscaping that covers one-third of the site so as to keep it cool. It will have both LEED Gold certification and a China Green Building Three Star rating.

Gensler says these sustainable strategies will reduce the building’s carbon footprint by 34 thousand metric tons per year.

The tower received additional publicity this year when two Russian free climbers made a two-hour ascent to its top. They captured stunning images, including one looking down on the 88-floor Jin Mao Tower, which until 2007 was the tallest building in China.

But Shanghai Tower could be overshadowed by another supertall – Sky City, located in Hunan province capital Changsha.At 838 metres, it could dwarf not only Shanghai Tower but also the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world as of 2010, by 10 metres.


In 2012, Chinese construction company Broad Sustainable Building Co. Ltd., part of the Broad Group, said it would construct the world’s new tallest building in just 90 days. The Burj Khalifa took 5 years and Shanghai Tower has taken 6 years (so far). According to the group’s website, it will cost RMB 9 billion ($1.46 billion).

Originally slated for completion in January 2013, Sky City will be a mixed use, earthquake-resistant building that will house more than 30,000 people, roof garden, sports facilities, amusement part, organic farm, 31 high-speed elevators to take visitors up to observation decks, helipads, and a 10 kilometre “walking street” that runs from the first to the 170th floor.


According to Broad Group CEO Yue Zhang, “Residents don’t need to step out of the building, they can do everything within it”. The group employs “fast-building technology,” a super-fast construction method that allowed it to put up a 15-story hotel within six days in 2010, a 30-story tower in just 15 days in 2011, and which the group has applied to more than 30 of their buildings.

The group claims the construction technique is simple. For Sky City, 20,000 workers will produce thousands of 60 square metre prefabricated steel-and-concrete blocks in its offsite factory, over four months. The blocks will then be transported to the site, and hoisted and packed into position to create the final structure over two months, at a rate of three storeys per day. Internal construction will take another four months.

There has been a lot of scepticism about the group’s unconventional construction techniques, and construction has been hit by a number of snags, mainly over safety and permits.

Last July, Xinhua reported that construction had been halted over questions concerning feasibility and government permission. Local media said “relevant authorities” halted work because “it did not complete the required procedures”. A Broad Group spokeswoman said it had all the required permits. An AFP-JIJI report in the Japan Times, published on January 19, 2014, said that according to Yue, Sky City will be completed by the end of this year.

While it’s unclear if construction plans for Sky City will ever get off the ground, what is clear is China’s continued plans to build more tall buildings. A 2012 China Skyscraper Report by Chinese architecture website, says that more than 10 cities in China are planning to construct buildings taller than the 541-metre (1,775 feet) One World Trade Center in New York City. The site, which defines skyscrapers as buildings over 152 metres (498 feet), also reports that China currently has 470 skyscrapers, 332 under construction and 516 planned but not yet confirmed.

Those confirmed include the 597 metre tall Golden Finance 117 in Tianjin, due for completion in 2015, the 660 metre Ping An Finance Center in Shenzhen, in 2016, and the 636 metre Greenland Center in Wuhan, due to be completed in 2017.

Last year, real estate company Emporis reported that half of the tallest buildings under construction in the world are in China. By 2022 China could have as many as 1,318 buildings over 152 metres high.

By Martine Beale


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