The Need for Speed

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Can a 220-storey tower in China really be built in 90 days? MEA speaks to tall building experts to find out

Last month, Chinese company Broad Sustainable Building (BSB) stunned the construction industry with its audacious proposal to build the world’s tallest building in a mere 90 days.

BSB’s ‘Sky City’ is a 220-storey, 838m tower in Changsha, Hunan Province, with construction pencilled to start in November 2012 and finish in January 2013.

The project has reportedly received backing from the local authorities and is pending ‘final approval from the government’, according to information on the company’s website.

BSB claims the secret to building fast lies in its use of its ‘modular technology’ which features ‘95% factory prefabrication at a five-storey per day construction speed’.

This method was used in the company’s successful construction of a 30-storey hotel in 360 hours in December 2011, following its previous completion of a 15-storey building in six days.

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According to Bart Leclercq, head of structures Middle East for WSP – the engineering firm behind The Shard in London – prefabrication is certainly a concept that makes sense. “I absolutely love the idea that they are looking at ways to speed up construction.

“To prefabricate, plan ahead and assemble units before they are hoisted into place and connected together – I think that’s innovative. You can see that happening more and more. I think that’s brilliant and I love the ambition.”

He continues: “From an investor’s point of view they want to build this as quickly as possible. There are always booms and busts, so I imagine they really want to speed things up [before the next downturn]. “BSB has got a lot of people thinking about prefabrication. It’s great because you are able to manufacture everything under good circumstances in factories. You can make sure the conditions are right, which is difficult on site. I think that is definitely the way forward.”

Kevin Brass, public affairs manager and journal editor for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), also notes that prefabrication is a method worth exploring more. “There is a lot of innovation in tall building design. Prefabrication is not new but it is an idea worth examining to create an efficient building in more efficient timelines, with fewer materials and a lower cost. That is really worth taking a look at, especially in China, where there is a huge demand for tall buildings.”

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