The Shanghai Tower is another in a long list of ambitious skyscrapers competing fiercely for sustainability credentials as well as height. But how ‘green’ are these buildings – and is environmentalism really the motivation?
Twisting high above Shanghai’s financial district, China’s tallest tower – and the second tallest in the world – is preparing to officially open its substantial doors to the public next month. The Shanghai Tower, reaching 632 metres, is the third “supertall” tower on the city’s iconic skyline. Looking out from the 119th floor, the city lies below like a toy model, a densely packed mass of streets and high-rise buildings.
China loves a world record, and its new building boasts plenty, including the world’s fastest elevators, highest hotel and restaurant, and tallest viewing platform. Reassuringly, it also required the largest ever cement pouring for the foundations. But most importantly, the 128-storey tower also claims to be the world’s greenest skyscraper. Awarded the top green rating, LEED Platinum, the government is hailing the tower as a sign of China’s growing green credentials.
China’s sustainability record in the past has been abysmal. The country burns47% of the world’s coal, according to the US Energy Information Administration, and is facing the impact of decades of rapid deforestation and water pollution. With some of the most polluted air on the planet, killing as many as 4,000 people a day, an increasingly restive population is demanding more government action.
Nervous of the impact that smog-filled days and clogged roads could have on social stability, the government has begun tree planting programmes, ordered thousands of cars off the roads in cities such as Beijing, and is investing in green technology in a big way. China is now the biggest renewables market in the world, more than double than in the US, and home to almost one of every three wind turbines globally.
Green buildings, however, make up a woefully small part of the green industry, with most work focused on quick construction and quicker sales. Estimates put the number of green buildings on the mainland at less than 1%, though a 2014 target by the State Council wants 30% of new construction projects to be green by 2020.
In Shanghai, engineer Shunfu Cha points to 200 wind turbines spinning at the top of the tower – the world’s tallest turbines, naturally – which generate around 10% of the building’s electricity. “These are one of the most obvious green technologies,” he says, gesturing upwards into the clouds. “But only one part of bringing down the energy use.”
GKB507 5h ago
One of the problems with very tall buildings is that since roads usually can't be made wider, the many users/occupants rely on subways. However, while tall buildings allow developers to make maximum profit from a small land area, the government is left to deal with the issue of building and funding public transportation.
bcnteacher 7h ago
How many people died during its construction?
Kamatron 8h ago
Oh look, another article baiting for anti Chinese comments.
quatsch 9h ago
although the video In 2014, two Russian free climbers reached the top of the Shanghai Tower in just two hours. is impressive, it would have been interesting to have a cam on the highest construction workers who were bolting the structure together prior to the fast climb. The two guys certainly trusted the workers' efforts.
Ranny Ran 10h ago
good article .. But biased., as usual. Once again it is quite obvious that the guardian author selected the most negative daily topic on China he or she can find to write about