It has been a while coming, and it has been difficult to believe. The next world's tallest building will be in an empty field in China, it will be prefabricated and constructed in an unprecedentedly short time, and it will not be built primarily as an expression of financial power.If you don't pay attention to detail, you might be tempted to come to the opposite conclusions, and classify it away with a lot of other hype. But in fact, this is one of the most plausible, most genuine, most radical contributions to the transformation of the planet through a reasoned application of available technology. The proponent of the scheme is a visionary industrialist who is putting his money where his mouth is, and equally importantly, has demonstrated the capacity to bring the project to fruition.
Broad Sustainable Construction has released information through TreeHugger that a long and arduous approval process has been completed, and that they are starting excavation and construction on Sky CIty in June, 2013. Inhabitat describes the development as:
Sky City will be prefabricated off site in three months, and it will then be assembled in just seven months. Reaching up 838 meters (2,749 feet), the 220-floor tower will feature residential, office space, organic farms, recreation spaces, schools, a hospital retail and much more. The tower will house 4,450 families in apartments ranging from 645 square feet to 5,000 square feet with 92 elevators at your disposal to reach them. As its name suggest, Sky City will be a vertical city that will accommodate 100,000 people and offer everything that is needed — water, electricity, sewage (unlike the Burj Khalifa), open space, schools, health care and more.There has been considerable scepticism about the claims of the speed of construction. It is well to remember that the system has been undergoing continuous development. Successful entrepreneur Zhang Yue founded Broad in 1988, and made his money through inventing and commercialising a number of air-conditioning technologies. He became a minor celebrity in international business circles for refusing to enter the refrigerative chiller market in China at a time when he could have established a dominating market presence, based on a matter of principle – that his absorption chillers using waste heat were much preferable from a sustainability perspective.
It was the same principled concern for the welfare of other people that led him to take up the challenge of emergency housing. Zhang said he had been appalled at how many poorly constructed buildings collapsed in the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province that left more than 87,000 dead or missing. This solution was the prototype of the construction system. In my mind, the construction system has been well and truly tested in principle, through a number of admittedly much smaller buildings constructed by the company: the 6-story Broad Pavilion in Shanghai Expo 2010 in 1 day, the 14-story New Ark's Hotel in Broad's headquarters in 6 days, the Broad Pavilion in 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference in 8 days and the 30-story T30 Hotel prototype near Dongting lake in 15 days. Unusually for reporting of such proposed projects, that Treehugger article contains considerable detail on the "bundled tube" structure, first demonstrated in the Sears Tower in Chicago, and also used in the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
In fact, the more interesting and contentious discussion is about the merits of a super high-rise building as a solution to the problem of urban density. Zhang and his supporters contend that with much higher efficiencies for maintaining acceptable environmental conditions, and other sustainability initiatives, the compelling argument in favour of the building rests on the much reduced footprint – and therefore preservation of land from otherwise encroaching urban development.
- Sky City: World’s Tallest Tower to Break Ground in June Sky City-Broad Sustainable Building – Inhabitat
- One Building, One City: World's tallest prefab, Sky City, is breaking ground in June – Treehugger
- Broad Sustainable Building: Factory made house
- China ‘instant buildings’ seeking to be pioneer in shoddy construction sector – Financial Post