09 April 2010

China's Buildings Chip, Crack, Collapse Too Soon

Compared to the less than 30-year average life expectancy of China’s buildings, the average life span of a building in Britain is capable of 132 years and in the United States it is 74 years.

...Alarm was raised several times in 2009 over the poor quality of the country's buildings.

In October of that year, a six-story apartment block collapsed in Central China's Wuhan, Hubei province. It was later found to have been held together by "steel supports as thin as iron wires", according to the subsequent investigation.

Earlier, in June 2009 a 13-floor building in the Lotus Riverside residential complex in Shanghai toppled, killing one worker. An investigation revealed the building's foundations had been undermined by a combination of soil piled 10 m high on one side of the structure and the digging of a 4.6-m underground car garage on the other.

One month later, a construction pit at the site of a planned building in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, collapsed and is believed to have caused massive cracks on nearby residential buildings. _ChinaDaily_via_ImpactLab
China is a massive consumer of the world's materials, energies, and resources, but is China putting the world's resources to good use? We know that China pollutes the world's skies, oceans, and land masses. But is it for a good cause?
"Every year, new buildings in China total up to 2 billion square meters and use up 40 percent of the world's cement and steel, but our buildings can only stand 25 to 30 years on average," Qiu Baoxing, vice-minister of housing and urban-rural development, said at a recent international forum on green and energy-efficient building.

This means the average life span of China's residential buildings is shorter than their intended life span of 50 years at the blueprint stage. As a result, property developers have been urged to extend the median life span of buildings.

Industry sources have added to the mix by stating that the per unit energy consumption of China's short- lived residential buildings is two or three times that of residential buildings in developed nations.

In China, construction waste comprises 30 to 40 percent of the total urban waste.
The construction of a 10,000-sq-m building will create 500 to 600 tons of waste, while the demolition of a 10,000-sq-m old building will create 7,000 to 12,000 tons of waste, according to industrial data.

Space from building demolition in China annually constitutes about 40 percent of the total construction area. _ChinaDaily

Eventually, one must ask the question: "What is the point of it all?" Why is China devouring so much of the world's resources to build a huge volume of construction, when it is all going to be torn down -- or will fall down on its own -- within 30 years? Particularly when most of this new space is unoccupied, and may well never be occupied before collapsing or being demo'd.

For all of those who insist that China is the place to invest one's assets, perhaps it is time to begin to pay attention to what is actually going on. It is not always clear who is cooking China's books, only that they use too much MSG, pork fat, and bubble gum.

Originally published at abu al-fin


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Blogger kurt9 said...

I'm sure shoddy construction is a problem in China. The Koreans had this problem during the 90's, when a major shopping mall collapsed in 1994, killing many people.

Even Japan is not immune. I last visited Japan in Dec. of '05, when the Aneha scandal had just broken into all of the newspapers and media. For those of you not in the know, Aneha was an architect who was caught fudging his structural calculations on the high rise buildings that he designed. Many of the structures he design had to be evacuated and demolished because it was determined that they did not meet earthquake specification. The scandal spread when further investigation showed that what he had done was actually common practice at many architectural and construction firms. Japan's construction industry has always been sleazy and corrupt. It is also well-known for its infestation by the Yakuza.

If this is the case with Japan's construction industry, China's has got to be far worse.

Friday, 09 April, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Firstly, I consider MSG, pork fat, and bubble gum to be crucial food groups in my nutrition pyramid.

But I agree with the sceptical view of China's future. I find it odd that there are still so many (though by no means all) "experts" who are bullish on China. They never make a case that I find convincing but they are still there.

Then again, the whole nation state system, based on eternally increasing government spending compared to GDP and eternally increasing debt, seems rather shaky. I realize that people have been saying that for ages but watching what happened to the USSR, today's Russia, Venezuela, Zimbabwe - soon to happen in South Africa, and all Western nations make it seem that an unstoppable trend is at work. Even people like the late President Reagan can only slow the process down to a degree that is almost imperceptible on the longer scale. The amount of a country's wealth diverted to government as a fraction of the total always increases over time. Periods of tax cuts and budget cuts are only brief and meaningless relief as debts rise. Eventually all states will come to the point of default. On the political side, elections will become easier to influence by controlling the media and schools, and intimidating the opposition which amplifies the incentive to use occasional election irregularities to push the occasional district in the "correct" direction.

As creditors give up on the pyramid scheme, voters will give up on what is left of democracy and once professional armies will be de-funded. If one can not imagine the idea of warlords taking over for nation states in our advanced Western societies, just look at biker gangs and other organized crime groups who, in best cases, are only just held in check by police - not defeated.

If a major collapse of the nation state system is not to happen, something really unexpected needs to happen.

Friday, 09 April, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Nice comments, thanks Kurt and Baron.

As to the inevitability of the collapse of the nation-state, you seem to agree with Robert D Kaplan and Neal Stephenson.

Social crusaders such as Obama, Rudd, and the European Greens only make devastating warfare more likely to occur due to their policies weakening the middle classes of their countries, and depleting the ability of their societies to defend themselves and survive.

Friday, 09 April, 2010  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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