By Guest Blogger Mikhail Tuknov
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. Zhang quickly ran into roadblocks during the first six months of research. Although he had already decided to eschew traditional construction methods, he was becoming increasingly frustrated with the need to hire a new team of designers and construction specialists for every new structure that he wanted to develop.
In a bid to reduce costs, Zhang then took the bold step of moving the construction process into the factory. This was an environment in which he was familiar, given his many years of involvement in the air-conditioning manufacturing industry.
However, making the shift from constructing air-conditioners to skyscrapers presented a whole list of problems and challenges. Zhang realized that creating these new skyscrapers required a different approach to construction and design, and most traditional building principles were rendered irrelevant to the process.
One of the key challenges that Zhang faced was the need to reduce the weight of the building. This necessitated a revision of the entire load-bearing structure. The solution he eventually decided on was to reduce the amount of concrete used in the flooring. This in turn resulted in a corresponding reduction in the amount of steel used in structural reinforcement.
As much as 90% of the 30-story building that Zhang first built was constructed in the factory. This percentage will be increased even more in the future, with the company moving toward constructing almost the entire building in a factory. Zhang says that this will not only ensure less waste, but also a safer and more structurally sound building.
Zhang’s bold new approach to building construction is fast being adopted in other countries. There is a perceptible shift toward sustainable buildings all over the world, and prefabricated and/or modular buildings are quickly becoming commonplace. Although wracked with union disputes that may cause a reversion to traditional construction, the 32-story building planned for construction in Brooklyn, New York started out as a modular project. In London, two modular structures have already been constructed, attesting to the hold that Zhang’s innovations have taken on the construction industry.
That being said, most modular and prefabricated structures planned for construction in the West are essentially low-rise buildings. At present, Broad is still one of the few-if not the only-company employing these building techniques in the construction of skyscrapers. Zhang remains firm in his resolve however, and the reduced impact on the environment is one of his more compelling reasons to stick to the path he established. Given that a typical Broad building will produce only 25 tons of waste compared to the 3,000 tons produced in the construction of a typical high-rise, it is easy to see from where Zhang draws his inspiration.
While Zhang’s buildings offer a number of advantages over traditional designs, they aren’t likely to win any beauty contests. Compared to the almost elegant modular structures common in the West, Broad buildings look almost drab and utilitarian. The unique design has also given rise to a few aesthetic issues, with a seemingly out-of-place pyramid base creating a less than flattering impression inside. Many of the hallways are also uncommonly narrow, and even the central stairway doesn’t quite feel right.
To be sure, Broad’s buildings don’t really look all that bad when compared with many other structures in China. What they lack in looks, they more than make up for in quality however, and this is in fact Broad’s primary selling point. In a country wherein most buildings are riddled with structural and construction issues, Broad may just have the edge by offering buildings that are guaranteed to be structurally reliable and consistent. In addition, Broad’s buildings are also priced significantly lower than buildings made via traditional construction, with $1,000 per square meter-versus the $1,400 for traditional commercial buildings-being the typical price.
Safety is another key selling point of Broad buildings, and the company is eager to push this advantage. According to Jiang, the construction of the first 20 buildings was accomplished without a single mishap. The construction of the elevator systems in the company factory also greatly reduces the risk of accidents. Elevator cars are also constructed in the factory, instead of being assembled on-site. With plans underway to preinstall elevator doors, construction-related risks are expected to be reduced even further.
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.
Don’t Forget – We Build America