China Just Broke Ground on World's Next Tallest Skyscraper, and It Aims to Finish by February

And it should be completed by February. The sky's the limit for China's sustainable, record-breaking, skyscraper.

Jul 22 2013, 1:49pm

Just as the weekend took off, so did the world's next tallest skyscraper. In China's 25th biggest city, Changsha, Hunan, ground has ambitiously been broken. In just the next seven months, Broad Sustainable Construction plans to erect its Sky City, a 220-story, 838 meter (2,749 feet) megatower.

Leaving Dubai's Burj Khalifa tower (829 meters or 2,722 feet) in second place by only nine meters, Sky City will more than triple its predecessor's floor space. The project is basically life-size Legos: A team of 19,000 workers will make modular pieces off-site for four months and then assemble them for the remaining three.

Once completed, 30,000 people will live and work fully-functional lives with little reason to ever leave. Why leave, when all one needs is the sky?

  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Gyms
  • Pools
  • Restaurants
  • Grocery stores
  • Offices
  • Homes (Up to 3,000 square feet.)

I'll be amazed if the utopian giant takes off, and is not another half-baked nightmare of China's real-estate bubble. While the building's footprint isn't great enough to displace sizeable populations like those VICE's Ryan Duffy met up with in Inner Mongolia, it's hard to imagine legitimate economic needs have necessitated such a project.

This could be why Sky City is half-impressive, half-punch-line to me. The punch-line being the builder's go-to argument for producing the monstrosity: Green infrastructure.

True, China has major pollution issues, and has practically dedicated additional layers to the atmosphere. New vertical lifestyles could promote less emissions, sure, but the only problem seems to be how many Chinese citizens are able to resign from their existing horizontal lifestyles?

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An incredible amount of unfinished and uninhabited highrise complexes pepper the Chinese countryside. There's also a waste of knock-off European-style cities that attract little more than photo ops for a type of newly-wed couple that's excited about Cars 2. If completed, Sky City has the ostensible weight of national pride weighing into its supersized-Empire-State-esque figure. Will the failsafe of a global spotlight keep the project in check?

BSC told Treehugger that global population increase is 1.8 percent, which ecologically prompts such revolutions like Sky City. But if we look in the Population Reference Bureau's 2012 Data Sheet, the global rate of natural increase is 1.2 percent (other sources currently state 1.14 percent), which makes this more than a small discrepancy to consider (0.6 percent of the World's population would be 42 million people).

Additionally, China's rate of natural increase is well below replacement at 0.5 percent. The country is currently projected to begin shrinking in the next decade, and is projected to be smaller in 2050 than it is today; a decrease of about 40 million people.

None of this is to say China, and Changsha's 7 million residents, couldn't use an über-efficient way of living, but it's hard to ignore the irony of trying to top Dubai—which is a city of abandoned skyscrapers. 

I heard architect, Jeanne Gang, speak about concepts for a module-constructed neighborhood, last summer. The takeaway had little to do with high-speed competitive building contests, but more-so to do with dynamic response to real needs. Her presentation looked like a slick, 21st-century trailer park. As families grew and more people moved in or out, the modules could adapt into duplexes, single-family homes, or make way for expanding business modules. I'd love to see it in action.

Within a few months, if a massive team of construction workers begin to hoist its Legos into the Changsha sky, I may have to see that happen as well. If their mission is to save the world by building its tallest skyscraper, then someone ought to try holding them accountable. If you're setting bets, Sky City has until February 19, 2014, to become realized.