High-rises raise major concerns

By Qiu Quanlin in Guangzhou and Yin Ping in Shanghai (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-30 07:17

Safety and environmental protection should be the chief concerns of Chinese cities in their race to build more skyscrapers, architects said recently.

The warning came after work on the 432-meter-high West Tower began in the capital of Guangdong Province last Friday.

The skyscraper, located on the central axis of Zhujiang New Town, in Guangzhou's new urban area, will be the tallest building on the mainland when it is completed some time before 2009, bypassing the current record-holder, the Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai, by 12 meters.

With an investment of about 6 billion yuan ($769 million), the building will redefine Guangzhou's skyline, officials from the local municipal government said.

However, concerns have also been raised about the high-rise's safety and its impact on the city's urban environment.

"Safety, whether in terms of fire control or prevention of terrorist attacks, should be the priority in building the skyscraper. Otherwise, it will be useless," said Lin Yongxiang, chief architect at the Architecture and Design School of the South China University of Technology.

Lin, who is also an engineer on the West Tower's construction team, added that guaranteeing the high-rise would be safe represented a "great challenge".

High-tech facilities

"Taking its height into consideration, we have been working carefully on the construction drawing. We will be relying on high-tech facilities throughout the lifespan of this project," Lin said in an interview with China Daily yesterday.

Besides safety, environmental protection should also be a key concern in the construction of high-rises, Lin said.

"Having a high density of such buildings will, of course, negatively affect the city's natural landscape, posing a great threat to the environment," Lin said.

Sources with the local city urban planning bureau said that after work on the West Tower starts, construction on two other skyscrapers the East Tower and the Guangzhou TV Tower is due to begin in Zhujiang New Town.

"It is urgent to work out an effective building blueprint for this area to control the space between buildings and their heights," Lin said.

For example, dozens of skyscrapers have risen along the Pearl River, which runs through city's center, ruining the natural landscape and reducing the once broad river to a "stone and steel canyon".

"The natural ventilation along the river will be spoiled if high density housing projects continue to be built," said Zhao Qinghua, director of the Guangzhou Urban Development and Environment Resources Committee.

Zhao added that commercial high-rises near the river and in the city's center should be subject to strict regulations set by the government.

He said the local government had not approved any new land use rights for real estate development in the past three years and had decided to tear down building projects that negatively affect the river.

"So we also hope to come up with a healthy layout scheme for buildings in Zhujiang New Town to avoid high density," Zhao said.

Such concerns have been raised frequently in recent years as hundreds of high-rises have been built in fast-developing metropolises throughout the country.

Shanghai's central business district is one example.

More than just tall buildings, skyscrapers are regarded as symbols of expertise and prosperity in Shanghai.

And it seems that many residents in the city are used to a life among towering buildings and show little concern for safety.

"All the facilities here are the most advanced, and we have regular anti-fire rehearsals," said Qian Zhilei, a young man working on the 23rd floor of the 420-meter-tall Jin Mao Tower.

(China Daily 01/30/2007 page5)

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