You have to give it to the Chinese: they think big. They have a wall so impressive it’s called the Great Wall, and it’s visible from space. And they’ve built a huge dam, and have a huge population, gigantic cities and a monstrous pollution problem.
And soon, they expect to have the world’s tallest building.
The Broad Sustainable Building Corp. plans to build the aptly named Sky City. It’s to soar 2,749 feet into the sky above the city of Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province. The world’s tallest building now is Burj Khalifa in Dubai. At 2,717 feet, it has 160 stories. Sky City will have 220 stories, more than 100 elevators, enough apartments to house more than 31,000 people and an appropriate assortment of offices, shops, restaurants and hospitals.
But all those details aren’t what sets Sky City apart from Burj Khalifa or any other tall building. What sets Sky City apart is that it’ll take just 90 days to build.
So says Broad Sustainable Building Corp.’s chairman, Zhang Yue. Folly? Maybe. But two years ago he built a 15-story building in 48 hours. He topped that last year with a 30-story structure that went up in 15 days. And although their longevity doesn’t quite challenge that of the pyramids, both are still standing.
Zhang’s secret? Lego. No, not exactly the children’s connectable toy blocks, but something similar. Sky City will be a pre-fab structure, with modules built off site to be assembled at times at the rate of five stories a day.
And it’ll be a bargain. Production costs in China are notoriously low — low enough that just about everything under our Christmas trees will be made there. Sky City’s costs will reflect that. The company says it will build Sky City for $618 million — $63 a square foot. Dubai’s Burj Khalifa cost $450 a square foot.
Construction is to begin in January. Well before summer, then, the folks on the 220th floor of Sky City will know whether the air a half-mile up is the same color and consistency as it is at ground level.
And during their elevator rides to the top, they’ll have time to wonder whether Sky City’s builders were held to the same standards as their countrymen who manufactured and exported toxic toothpaste, cough syrup, dog treats, honey and other goods.