China’s fast tower building ‘revolution’

Sky City tower
Sky City tower model

The Chinese reputed for being industrious are nowadays turning to innovation, research and development.

A modest, by Chinese standards, new building in Changsha in southern China stands at 204m like a tower of steel and glass.

It was put up at speed never witnessed before; a rate of three storeys per day was the pace of erection.

The architect of the whole scheme, a certain Zhang Yue, seems to consider this as only the beginning insisting that the revolution in construction will be about the use of ‘industrial ‘modules’.

In effect, the whole buildings was pre-engineered and prefabricated at factory.  Then Mini Sky City was assembled from the thousands of factory-made steel modules that were bolted on using heavy and numerous pieces of lifting plant.

Now Zhang Yue wants to use the same technique to build the world’s tallest skyscraper, Sky City.

The current record holder, the 828m-high Burj Khalifai, took five years to build, he says his proposed 220-storey “vertical city” will not only be 10m taller than the Burj but it will take only seven months – four for the foundations, and three for the tower itself.

The Mini Sky Tower

Changsha Mini Sky City tower construction in progressThe 57 storey building has 19 atriums, office space for 4,000 people and 800 apartments.

For some, the speed of construction has raised a question. Can something built so fast really be safe?

Steel is delivered to one of the contractor / builder company ‘Broad Group’s six factories, where it is turned into one of a few basic modules made of a column, crossbeam or floor section.

These are then transported to site, where they are fixed to others of the same.  All modules be they multi floor tall windowed walls and rectangular floor sections of 12mx2m, come pre-installed with plumbing, electric wiring and air ducts.

The company says 90% of their buildings’ components are prefabricated like this, with only interior finishing required on site.

A “configuration guide” on the company’s website allows prospective clients to select the type of building they require, from hotel to kindergarten to museum.

They can also choose extras, such as a “sky garden”, an “indoor farm” or a helipad.  To demonstrate resilience of the buildings, footage has been released of a model skyscraper surviving the equivalent of a magnitude nine earthquake.

In heavily polluted China, one of the most appealing features of the design may be the interior air quality.  High levels of tiny atmospheric particles pollution pose a serious health hazard in many cities.  Broad Group claims their technology stops 99% of them from getting inside their buildings.

The windows are designed not to open, partly for this reason.  They’re also made of quadruple glazing, one of the features which Zhang says makes his buildings “five times more energy efficient” than conventional ones.   A 20cm-thick wall insulation, exterior window shading and Broad Group’s air conditioning system, sold in dozens of countries around the world.

The proposed Sky City tower

Mini Sky City under construction
Mini Sky City under construction

In a building like the 220-storey Sky City, with 30,000 residents, there would be further benefits, Zhang argues.  People would live and work in the same building, so they would not have to travel to work and therefore would not need cars.  Also by living vertically, more land could be freed and be left in its natural state.

“In Sky City, you can find anything you need from cradle to grave except a crematorium,” Zhang has written.

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