China building industry is on poor foundations

THE overall standard of finished buildings in China is far inferior to that of projects completed in Hongkong, according to several local architects.

They cite poor-quality buildindifferences in work practices as the major factors in what they say are ''second-rate'' standards of construction.

''The building materials available in China are definitely not up to scratch,'' said one architect, who did not want to be named.

''Basic materials such as concrete, bricks and drainage pipes are all right but, when it comes to glass, aluminium, metal work and sophisticated finishes such as timber panelling and wallpaper, the quality is usually very bad.

''The only way to get around this is to import materials, but a lot of developers don't like to do this because it can be an expensive exercise.

''In many cases, those involved prefer to make do with the materials available in China, no matter how inferior they might be.'' Another source said it was inevitable that buildings in China were finished to lower standards than projects in Hongkong because the level of skill of local workers was generally lower.

''This is especially evident in workmanship,'' he said.

''I think the basic structure of most buildings is quite satisfactory, but the quality of the finishing work tends to be shoddy.'' He said the problems were compounded by poor building management and a lax approach to tendering.

Another architect said there was sometimes conflict caused by poor communication between the architects and the client.

''Often, the client will appoint an architect and then appoint a separate design team without informing the architect,'' he said.

''This means the interior design work and the work of the architect will collide and things become very confusing.

''Generally speaking, though, the lower standard of finished projects in China is due to a lower level of workmanship.

''And this is often related to supervision.

''If the workers are well supervised, they generally do a satisfactory job.'' Another source, who has been working on China projects for the past 10 years, said there were major problems arising from time constraints.

''The number one priority of clients in China is to get the project finished as quickly as possible,'' he said.

''This can mean skimping on major factors, such as good quality finishes.

''Work goes ahead with the first priority being to get the job done in a hurry.

''In the early days, the biggest problems were communications and transportation.

''It was often difficult to transfer information to the client.

''Things have improved in that area, but it seems to have just made way for bigger problems.'' The architect believed the basic problem rested with poor quality building materials.

''This is especially evident in the new factory buildings which have been completed in China in the last five years,'' he said.

''Most factory owners want to save money and use local materials and local workers who can get the job done as quickly as possible.

''But the end result is often disastrous.''