It’s no secret that China is having a building boom. The rate of development has been talked about to death by all the major media outlets for the past several years. I can even see it in my little boonie of a town. They have been developing the area around my school for the past few years. There are dozens of apartment buildings, which are slowly filling up, miles of new roads, and new restaurants and shops that open almost daily.
There are usually two main narratives when discussing construction in China. One is the lack of quality. Buildings go up so fast, and so willy nilly, that ensuring quality seems almost impossible. The poor building quality was tragically proven to the world in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake where thousands of school children were buried alive and killed by poorly built school buildings.
The government reacted by drawing up new legislature and quality controls that all new construction has to follow. Unfortunately, it seems that money continue to trumps safety as proven by a recent incident in Shanghai.
On Monday, a building in Shanghai caught fire and burned entirely. It was a 30-story building and a residence building. Over 50 people were caught and died in the blaze while about a hundred were hospitalized. This was not a new building, it was built in the late 90’s, but was being renovated to increase energy efficiency and was covered in tarps and scaffolding.
It seems that the cause of the fire was due to the builders. The workers were (allegedly) unlicensed and didn’t know how to use their welding tools properly. They set some building materials on fire on the 10th floor and soon the entire building was aflame due to the bamboo scaffolding and highly flammable nets covering it.
8 workers have been detained by the government, and more stringent fire prevention methods are being out into place, but it still remains a sad reminder of the risks of constant, fast and cheap development.
On the other hand, and the second most common development story coming out of China, is the number of green buildings the country is investing in. I believe that China is the only place in the world that can develop an empty piece of land into a functioning city of close to a million in just a few short years. After all, they are the only country with the land, money, population, and labor force to make it happen. Wikipedia lists 5 such eco cities being built in China right now.
So it’s nice to see stories such as these coming out of China. Last week, in just 6 days, workers managed to build a 15 story hotel that is able to (allegedly) withstand magnitude 9 earthquake. The pieces of the building was made off-site, then trucked in, so all they had to do was basically assemble the pieces, which is what accounted for the short time frame. Also, since the pieces were pre-made off-site the entire process produced less construction waste than normal and was more efficient.
I’m not sure how normal this construction project was, and how much was hammed up for the camera as their uniforms seem awfully crisp and new and the bosses seem more heavily involved than I see in the construction around me, but still it is an amazing feat and should be emulated in future construction if possible.
It seems like people always want to classify and categorize the middle kingdom based on some pre-conceived notion, but as just two articles plucked from these week’s news show, things are often many shades of gray.
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