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China bans tallest skyscrapers following safety concerns

Women pose for pictures near the CCTV headquarters and China Zun skyscraper in Beijing’s central business district, China, July 16, 2020. — REUTERS/TINGSHU WANG

CHINA is prohibiting construction of the tallest skyscrapers to ensure safety following mounting concerns over the quality of some projects.

The outright ban covers buildings that are taller than 500 meters (1,640 feet), the National Development and Reform Commission said in a notice Tuesday. Local authorities will also need to strictly limit building of towers that are more than 250 meters tall.

The top economic planner cited quality problems and safety hazards in some developments stemming from loose oversight. A 72-story tower in Shenzhen was closed in May for checks following reports of unexplained wobbling, feeding concern about the stability of one of the technology hub’s tallest buildings.

Construction of buildings exceeding 100 meters should strictly match the scale of the city where they will be located, along with its fire rescue capability, the commission said.

“It’s primarily for safety,” said Qiao Shitong, an associate law professor at the University of Hong Kong who studies property and urban law. Extremely tall buildings “are more like signature projects for mayors and not necessarily efficient.”

Authorities imposed an “in-principle” ban on new towers over 500 meters last year. There are only 10 buildings in the world exceeding that height, and five of them are in mainland China, including the 632-meter Shanghai Tower, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. 

The SEG Plaza’s shaking in May prompted the local government to investigate and led to a warning from the US consulate in Guangzhou urging Americans to avoid the area. Videos circulated showing people fleeing. The building remains closed. — Bloomberg