Wednesday, August 14, 2013

China's Development Landscape

As a transportation planner, I am not too well-versed in the world of residential or commercial construction. I focus more on how people get from home to work, than the buildings that contain one's home or work.

However, since coming to China, it's almost impossible to ignore the construction bonanza that's going on here. The cranes are everywhere. Some projects seem reasonable, while others seem completely over the top. Furthermore, the break-neck pace at which all the development is happening raises some significant concerns about environmental impact, safety, and economic repercussions.
The cranes are everywhere!
Environmentally, China does have a green building standard, overseen by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development. Here's a great (sort of wonky) blog post comparing the China standards to the US Green Building Council's LEED standards. The standards are not mandatory (neither are the LEED standards) so the impact is necessarily limited, and dictated largely by demand. I don't have enough access or exposure to the process of construction to make sweeping claims about environmental impact, but from a pollution standpoint, I can't imagine it's helping the recent sky-high rates of particulate matter.

Safety-wise, elevators that travel at 40 mph are kind of a terrifying concept. (Though I suppose it's better than this construction mistake.) And while this happened a few years ago, there's still some visible evidence that the speed of construction comes before anything else...
...Like this collapsed drain cover, spotted near work in a development built probably within the last 1-2 years.
Or these street lights. Look closely; you can see that the petals from the decorative flowers are all skewed in different directions, broken already from the wind, presumably. 
Finally, some of the economic implications...The economics of development are incredibly complex and I don't understand it nearly well enough to synthesize the my thoughts or make claims about the economic impact. Rather, here are a few articles I've read that all seem to be either directly or tangentially related to the economic repercussions of this development spree:

No one around, except a lone biker. Outside Dazu on a Sunday evening. (To be fair, it's a largely industrial - not residential - area, on the weekend.)
To bring this post full-circle back to Los Angeles, here's an article about how Chinese developers are starting to speculate on land in the US. Given the vastly different political and regulatory context in the US, it will be very interesting to track the progress of this project and see how it compares to this company's successes in China.


Dad said...

I may be mis-remembering (is that a word?) but the elevators in the World Trade Center were clocked at 60 MPH and they were built 30-40 years ago?

Chelsea said...

The old WTC had elevators that went 1600 feet per second, or about 18 mph. (

The new WTC will have elevators that go 2000 feet per second, or about 20 mph, which, in 2009, were among the fastest elevators in the world. In 2009, the fastest recorded speed was in Taipei, at 3314 feet per second, or 37.5 mph. (