Engineer to retire if China builds super-quick tower

The head of structures for WSP Middle East has pledged to give up structural engineering if China builds a 220-storey tower in three months.

The tongue-in-cheek statement, made by WSP’s Bart Leclercq, was in response to a proposed 838m-high tower in Changsha called Sky City, by construction company Broad Sustainable Building (BSB).

B2B has claimed to be planning to build the world’s tallest building in 90 days, following its successful completion of a 30-storey hotel in 360 hours in December 2011.

Speaking to Middle East Architect, Leclercq said that B2B’s timeframe for a 828m-high tower is not technically possible, even with the use of prefabrication techniques.

Leclercq stated: “I don’t think it’s possible to build [a 838m tower] as quickly as they claim. If they manage to build this structure in three months then I will give up structural engineering. I will hang my hat and retire. I will be eating humble pie as well.”

He added: “In order to get stiffness in your building you need lots of area of concrete and steel. In order to get that all in place, you need an enormous amount of time to bring it up, put it in place, put it all together, to pour the concrete and put the reinforcement in place. [This proposal in China] doesn’t make any sense.”

Leclercq believes that the Burj Khalifa’s construction timeframe of five years cannot be beaten at the current time. “I think they did a tremendous job to build the Burj Khalifa in five years,” he said.

“With all the construction methods we have and the knowledge we have, they managed to squeeze the maximum speed on that particular project. I really believe they did it as quickly as was technically possible. I don’t see any other way they could build it faster.”

Kevin Brass, public affairs manager and journal editor for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), also questioned the feasibility of B2B’s scheme.

Brass commented: They [B2B] have certainly shown they can build a tower quickly but this is a different scale. The fabrication process and the sheer quantity of materials necessary is a real challenge. A small building doesn’t prove that they can build at that height.”

He continued: “A building of this height is such an involved science – it is not a simple thing. Architects like Adrian Smith [architect of the Burj Khalifa] are the foremost experts in this field. It is up to NASA levels [of design and engineering] and is not something that can be handed over a lunch napkin.”

The project has received backing by local authorities but is awaiting government approval. B2B declined to comment on the technical details of the tower.