Broad Group CEO explains why technological innovation in construction is stagnant

The construction and infrastructure industry is antiquated and out of date. Most work is still performed manually and on site, which is costly and time consuming. For example, today a skyscraper can take five years or more to complete. When the Empire State Building was constructed, it only took about 13 months.

Why technological innovation is stagnant in construction

1. Rapid urbanization in China is driving significant investments in infrastructure development. At the same time, innovative financing and investment products are also pouring money into the industry. When demand is strong and the market is good, people do not have much enthusiasm for new technology. They are not motivated to innovate because the profits are [already] there.

2. Excessive regulation of the industry and its supply chain can hinder innovation. In China, there are so many regulations that they do not encourage innovative technology or even thinking. For instance, in construction design, regulations can be so detailed that they specify which types of materials to use and what standard of thickness the materials should be. So, in China the industry falls back on what they call “standard.” Because regulations emphasize standard, builders pursue it at the expense of creativity, efficiency, safety, and ultimately responsibility. As long as a builder does not violate standard, he or she does not bear responsibility for any issues.

The latest reports seem to show that the construction of the J57 building is on hold for a couple of months after being 50% complete. The 202 SkyCity had its ground preparations completed but has been on hold for over 1 year.

Factory Built Skyscrapers

If conventional construction is a man building cars in his garage, our approach is to build cars on the assembly line. Ninety percent of the work for our prefabricated, sustainable buildings is done in the factory. Only the remaining 10 percent is done on site. Plumbing, electric, heating and cooling vents, plus the flooring and ceiling, are fitted into a module of 60 square meters. The walls, doors, and windows are stacked on top of the module, which is then transported to the construction site as a whole.

Benefits of Broad Group Factory Built processes

Zhang Yue: Our production process is not only fast, but it maximizes efficiency and minimizes waste—less than 1 percent construction waste, compared with the 30 percent generated by conventional methods. Because the majority of work is done in advance, our approach also speeds on-site construction. And because our main site is the factory, our transport and logistics costs are lower. We have greater capacity in the factory to store additional materials and supplies, whereas at a conventional construction site, materials like cement and steel are often delivered daily because the site cannot accommodate extra supplies. All in all, our construction process maximizes efficiency—in resources, labor, logistics, and transport.

The Importance of the Sky City Skyscraper

Broad Group is constructing the tallest building to promote the concept that urbanization need not sacrifice land or energy efficiency. This is the real significance of Sky City. When a building is taller, it naturally uses less land. Also, Sky City is a mixed-use development and will include residential housing; commercial space for business, shopping, and entertainment; a school; a hospital; and two square kilometers of green space covered by 100,000 trees. Residents will have access to everything they need in this self-contained development. Think of how lovely our cities could be if we all traveled to work and school and ran errands on foot. Such a lifestyle lessens energy consumption and the number of roads, cars, and traffic jams in our city. According to our calculations, Sky City could help reduce the number of cars in Changsha by 2,000 and carbon emissions by 120,000 tons. These figures mean more than the title of world’s tallest building. They are determined that Sky City will have an impact on the people and city of Changsha, on China, and ultimately on the world.

They hope this project leads three important revolutions:
1. A revolution of the construction process;
2. A revolution of resource efficiency;
3. A revolution of the construction-industry business model and oversight.

If Broad group does not take action and showcase a different model that challenges conventional construction, the industry will not change. There will be huge obstacles, many of which are beyond my imagination. But [Broad Group CEO Zhang’s] resolve is strong. And he looks forward to the day when we can reflect on those obstacles over coffee on the 202nd floor.

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