Remember the time-lapse video documenting the construction of a 30-story prefabricated hotel in China that blew up around the Interwebs earlier this year?
The company behind that project, the T30 Hotel, has been grabbing headlines once again with news that foundation work is to commence on a 2,749-foot skyscraper that will — but only by a hair — snatch away the title of “world’s tallest skyscraper” from Burj Khalifa in Dubai (final government approval pending).
Chinese non-electric industrial air conditioner manufacturer-turned-prefabricated skyscraper erector Broad Sustainable Building Corp. will use the very same LEGO-esque drop-and-stack-and-slot building method — a method that offers both earthquake resilience and super-efficiency in terms of both time and materials — in erecting the 220-story tower in the city Changsha.
The traffic jam-busting building, dubbed Sky City One, is being touted as a "car-free city for 100,000 people" and will contain low, middle and luxury housing, office and retail space, schools, markets, hotels, clinics, and a series of "sky gardens" that double as helipads. Heady stuff, especially when you consider the target completion time of just 90 days at a rate of five floors completed per day. In comparison, the 160-floor Burj took five years to complete.
The man behind it all is former art student, zealous environmentalist, and despotic Broad Sustainable Building Corp. founder Zhang Hue, the subject of a fascinating profile that ran in Wired this past September. Largely inspired to start constructing towers composed from factory-built modules and capable of withstanding 9.0-magnitude temblors after witnessing the devastation left in the wake of 2008’s catastrophic Sichuan earthquake, Zhang is a true visionary who also sounds like one hell of an employer.
Writes Wired's Lauren Hilgers of the work culture at BSB:
The pace of Broad Sustainable Building’s development is driven entirely by this one man. Broad Town, the sprawling headquarters, is completely Zhang’s creation. Employees call him not 'the chairman' or 'our chairman' but 'my chairman.' To become an employee of Broad, you must recite a life manual penned by Zhang, guidelines that include tips on saving energy, brushing your teeth, and having children. All prospective employees must be able, over a two-day period, to run 7.5 miles. You can eat for free at Broad Town cafeterias unless someone catches you wasting food, at which point you’re not merely fined but publicly shamed.
So there’s that. I should also point out that, in addition to running quite the tight ship, Zhang was awarded with the 2011 Champions of the Earth Award (Entrepreneurial Vision Category) by the United Nations Environment Programme.
As of September, BSB will have completed 17 prefabricated towers including the T30 Hotel. All but one are in China. With a projected budget of $628 million, Sky City One will, if all goes accordingly, be finished in March after construction commences in January. And although the LEGO analogy is often thrown around when describing Broad’s innovative building technique, Deezeen likens the patented process — a process that Zhang is franchising to partners in India, Brazil, and Russia in a move that Wired says will turn Broad into the “McDonalds of the sustainable building industry” — to the toy construction sets produced by British company Meccano.
Although there's been a huge amount of fanfare surrounding Sky City One, some do have their doubts about how a self-contained skyscraper city will ultimately pan out (I recommend reading J.G. Ballard's excellent 1975 novel "High Rise" for a worst-case scenerio). Referring to BSB's plan as "madness," Christian Sottile, the Dean of the School of Building Arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design, tells an in-awe but skeptical Business Insider:
In an era of blind adherence to the marvels of technology, we are all too often seduced into believing that any result of its application will advance our collective well-being. We do this without considering all of its possible effects. We might remember that while nuclear physics is in itself a wonder of scientific achievement, it can be used either to create clean energy or fatal weaponry. In the case of Sky City One, the application of this technological feat, even if executed successfully, is ultimately a loss.
Whether you build it in three months, or not, you still lose.
In addition to the excellent Wired profile of Zhang, TIME's Nick Carbone has a decent overview of the project. TreeHugger’s Lloyd Alter has also been keeping close tabs on Sky City One. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for further developments as well. And here’s hoping that there are more of those crazy time-lapse videos to come.
And in other prefabricated skyscraper news, it was recently announced that construction will commence next month on the first of 15 modular residential towers to be erected as part of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. Described by the New York Times as being more “risky and ambitious” than Ratner’s nearby Barclay’s Center, the first tower, at 32-stories, is prematurely being dubbed as what will be the tallest factory-built building in the world.
Huh? Has somewhere alerted "my chairman" to this?