“Humble” is not a word one would commonly use when describing Zhang Yue. After all, the founder and chairman of Broad Sustainable Building gives off an air of confidence and assurance that some might mistake for borderline arrogance.
It is probably just as well, for a lesser and meeker man probably wouldn’t have been able to rack up half of Zhang’s considerable accomplishments. When you consider that he constructed a classical palace and a 130-foot high pyramid on his company’s premises in Hunan, China, or that he turned a successful air-conditioning manufacturing business into a skyscraper construction company, his demeanor begins to make sense. Clearly no ordinary man, Zhang Yue penchant for putting up skyscrapers at an unprecedented rate has earned him a renown that few humble men would ever experience.
In the second half of 2011, Zhang’s company constructed a 30-story building in record time, with the entire project taking only fifteen days. While other men would have been satisfied with such an accomplishment, Zhang soon set his sights on the even bigger goal of constructing the world’s tallest building. The time frame? An astounding seven months.
You may have already seen the video of the aforementioned 30-story building construction project. Released on the Internet on January 1, 2012, the striking time-lapse video soon went viral, cementing Zhang’s reputation as a construction force to be reckoned with.
Zhang himself often seems to move in his own time-lapse video. He is most often seen in the middle of a buzzing crowd of Broad employees, each distinguishable by the company’s white uniform shirts. This virtually impenetrable army of employees is constantly passing on papers to the company chairman, who himself is always at the center giving out orders. On the day of the interview, I arrived to see him amidst the same familiar flurry of activity, spinning in his chair. He only stops spinning around when he is ready to be interviewed, which he conveyed via a single command: “Begin!”
With such a formidable founder and chairman, it isn’t all that surprising that Broad Sustainable Building inspires an almost religious fervor and devotion among its employees. Only new employees refer to Zhang as “the chairman” or “our chairman”, but they quickly learn to adopt the more customary “my chairman.” Zhang is one of those rare employers that just seem to inspire loyalty and dedication, and the corporate culture within Broad Sustainable Building reflects that.
Zhang’s almost larger-than-life persona is tempered by curiously quaint and human aspects that for outsiders may verge on the outrageous. For example, part of the admission process for employees involv
And then there are the physical requirements. Part of the admission process also includes a 7.5 mile run, which all prospective employees should accomplish over two days in order to be considered into the company. Once accepted into the ranks, employees will be provided free meals at the company cafeteria. However, wasting food will result in a fine, and worse, public humiliation. Broad Sustainable Building is clearly no ordinary company, but then, Zhang is clearly no ordinary man.es the recitation of a “life manual” that was written by Zhang himself. Employees are also given a crash course on energy reduction, oral hygiene, and even giving birth!
To date, Broad Sustainable Building has racked up a record of sixteen structures in China, with another building in Cancun. These buildings are constructed in sections, with most of the work done in two plants in located an hour away from Broad Town headquarters. After being fitted with electrical, plumbing, communications and security fixtures, these sections are then transported to the building site for assembly.
Broad Sustainable Building currently leases the technology to partner firms in India, Brazil, and Russia. In a move remarkably similar to the development of McDonald’s, Zhang is clearly set on making his company the sole provider of mass-produced skyscrapers.
This approach can be explained by Zhang’s own assessment of traditional construction as “chaotic”. With the goal of addressing many of the problems that riddle the industry, Zhang has taken the construction process off the building site and “moved it into the factory.”
Just like the company chairman, these aren’t any ordinary buildings either. In line with the company’s numerous innovations, these buildings stand apart in the industry due to their safety, low cost, and quick construction process. When asked why he decided to turn the previous air-conditioning business into a construction company, Zhang was quick to distance the company from
the term’s standard definition. Instead, he proclaims his accomplishments part of a “structural revolution.”
While most men of his stature and accomplishments would be eager to talk about themselves, Zhang is surprisingly taciturn when it comes to sharing details of his life. Dismissing his personal history as “boring”, Zhang instead shifts the discussion into how his creativity and previous “outsider” perspective of the industry contributed to his success.
Nevertheless, some details of Zhang’s can be gleaned from the interview. After studying art throughout the early part of the 1980s, Zhang forged a partnership with his engineer brother and one other person. This partnership resulted in the founding of a company that manufactured non-pressurized boilers.
At this point in the interview, Zhang once again becomes bored with the details of his life. Thankfully, Broad’s senior vice president Juliet Jiang is more than willing to provide additional bits of information. Jiang points out that Zhang would have continued to be successful even if he had decided to stick to manufacturing boilers. However, filling the need for nonelectric air-conditioning had taken Zhang’s fancy, and there was no turning back.
To be continued….
This article was written by Mikhail Tuknov of Hammers Construction. Hammers Construction is a commercial construction company in Colorado Springs with 25 years experience in commercial design and building.