Sky City Changsha

Chinese steel not safe enough for Sky City project

Industry criticises developer's contention that only foreign steel will meet structural demands of record-breaking prefab skyscraper in Hunan

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 3:43am

The Chinese developer who aims to give China the world's tallest building will not be using Chinese steel.

Citing safety concerns, Broad Group president Zhang Yue said yesterday the company would use only foreign steel for its controversial 838-metre Sky City tower in Changsha - a project he hopes to complete in a record-breaking seven months.

"The hundreds of thousands of tonnes steel used by Sky City will come from the most technologically advanced country, Luxembourg, with very high price, tariffs and a huge transport cost," Zhang said in statement.

"It is not very environmentally correct to transport such an amount of steel more than 20,000 kilometres, but my reasoning tells me safety must be prioritised," he said, without saying why he thought domestic steel was less safe.

The decision immediately drew fire from the country's struggling steel industry, which questioned why domestic steel was inadequate for the building's modular design.

"Why don't they use Chinese steel?" Qi Xiangdong , deputy secretary general of the China Steel Industry Association. "Home-made steel should be qualified for building construction."

Qi said the Sky City project could have provided a big economic and morale boost to the domestic steel industry which had been suffering overcapacity and sluggish demand.

The Chinese steel industry lost nearly 700 million yuan (HK$878 million) in June, with more than 40 per cent of steelmakers pushed to the brink of bankruptcy, the association said in a report released on Wednesday.

"The project can bring much needed boost to the national economy and the industry," Qi said. "They must provide a convincing explanation with evidence why home-made steel cannot do the job."

The Shanghai office of Luxembourg steel giant ArcelorMittal declined to comment on the statement.

Broad plans to build the entire Sky City project by April next year. The structure, which would be located in suburban Changsha, would house 30,000 occupants at an estimated cost of nine billion yuan.

Some have raised doubts about the safety of the innovative design; modular construction has never been attempted for anything approaching this scale before. A pair of reports carried by Xinhua last week said the project had not yet received necessary approvals, which was taken as a sign authorities were balking at the plan.

Until now, the steel industry had been a source of support for the project.

Wang Yuanqing , a structural steel expert with Tsinghua University's School of Civil Engineering, said domestic steel meets general needs in building construction, except for a few special uses that demand an extremely high robustness or other special properties.

"In theory, domestic steel can used; in practice, they might have other considerations," Wang said. He said Sky City had become a controversial topic in mainland civil engineering and architecture circles due to its massive size and scale.

"Many experts still doubt whether the government will eventually approve its construction," Wang said.