• Tue
  • Sep 23, 2014
  • Updated: 1:06am

A hundred amazing storeys

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 February, 2012, 12:00am

It seems tall buildings are springing up all over the world these days. The king would have to be the Dubai skyscraper, Burj Khalifa, which stands at 829.84 metres.

While Hongkongers complain about the lack of space for property developments, it seems the mainland has no such problems. There seems to be plenty of land. Yet, skyscrapers are popping up all over China. In Tianjin , a new section of town is on the cards, with a 117-storey tower as its crowning glory.

Recently Young Post caught up with architect Edmond Ting at the Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club, which will form part of the recreational green belt for the new area, to talk about some of the difficulties in constructing skyscrapers.

The first thing Ting points out is that tall buildings are not economically efficient. 'They are very expensive,' he says, 'because they are not efficient. You're fighting with nature. There are many things to worry about, like typhoons and earthquakes.'

One of the big challenges facing architects is how to get people to the top of tall buildings. 'Vertical transportation takes up a huge portion of building costs,' says Ting. The floor space at the top is very small compared to the extra expenses incurred in getting people up there. Tall buildings will always be less efficient than shorter ones.

However, Ting points out, tall buildings become landmarks and bring business into an area. Those like the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Taipei 101 in Taipei and the Burj Khalifa have become international icons. Tourists will include them on their itinerary and so shops are willing to pay premium rental prices there.

While Ting says there is nothing technical stopping us having the tallest buildings we can imagine, the cost is often very high and so they need some sort of government backing in both finance and marketing. The idea behind Tianjin's 117 is a big one - it's not only going to be a massively tall building but it is also going to be an entire business district.

It's not just one building, says Ting. In Hong Kong, developers are hampered by having to fit their projects into the surrounding infrastructure. In the Tianjin development, a whole town is being built from scratch, thus allowing everything to be planned accordingly.

The new project will also work harmoniously with the environment. Not only will there be an enormous green belt, but the designers are striving for energy efficiency because it is cost-effective. The lifts that will pull office workers high above the city will re-feed the power they create when returning to the ground into the building's energy grid. Solar energy is not yet efficient enough, so the idea is to save or recover energy. The building will also have its own grey water recycling system and surface water will flow into its storage tanks.

But there is one thing which would strike fear into the heart of any prospective resident - earthquakes. Tianjin is near Tangshan , a city which was totally destroyed by an earthquake in 1976.

'The first issue we had to resolve was to ... come up with a structural system that will endure an earthquake up to a certain level, so that the building will not collapse,' says Ting.

A scale model was made to test the paper plan.

Once 117 is completed, it seems Tianjin will be enjoying the high life.

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