Kaid Benfield Archive


How not to build a high-rise

Kaid Benfield

Posted February 25, 2010 at 1:31PM

, , , , , , ,

  collapsed apartment building in Shanghai (vis ZonaEuropa & Marc van der Chijs, creative commons license)

Yes, believe your eyes: that’s an apartment building in Shanghai, virtually intact but on its side after, well, falling over.  The building was one of eleven 13-story buildings being constructed in the Lotus Riverside complex in China’s largest city.  It collapsed last June, killing one construction worker.

According to an article by Li Xinran, Lydia Chen and Wu Shen in Shanghai Daily, investigations showed that the weight of earth removed from beneath the building to build a garage, and dumped on a landfill area near a creek 30 meters away, had caused the river bank to collapse.  As a result, water seeped under the building, weakening its foundation.

The apartments in Lotus Riverside range from 66 to 128 square meters (710 to 1378 square feet) in size.  The average price of apartments in the collapsed building was 14,297 yuan per square meter (about US $195 per square foot) and 77 percent had been sold.  Shanghai Meidu Real Estate was developing the project, which was being built by Shanghai Zhongxin Construction Co.

  authorities investigate the damage (by: Xinhua-Chen Fei via China View)  collapsed apartment building in Shanghai, another view (vis ZonaEuropa & Marc van der Chijs, creative commons license)

Sky Canaves wrote last year on WSJ.com that “The disaster could reveal some uncomfortable facts about lax construction practices in China, where buildings are put up in a hurry by largely unskilled migrant workers, and developers may be tempted to take shortcuts.” 

Earlier this month six defendants associated with the project plead guilty to the charge of “causing a serious accident,” and were sentenced to prison terms from three to five years, according to a more recent report by Canaves.  They had been accused of lax supervision of the project and failing to stop the developer from engaging in unsafe construction practices.  Two key defendants in the case are still awaiting trial.

Thanks to Gaby Chavarria for pointing me to this story.