Posted by: nedpelger | June 29, 2009

Why are Buildings Falling Down in China?

Recently a nearly completed 13 story apartment building in Shanghai collapsed into a pile of rubble on the ground. Killing one construction worker, the building is one of seven identical buildings on the site. Of course, the residents in the other buildings are concerned that their buildings may unexpectedly collapse. The photos give a sense of scale (thanks for the link, Kneal).



A bridge in northeast China also collapsed today, dropping seven vehicles into the river below. The thousands of school children killed in last year’s building collapses during an earthquake further taint China’s record on construction quality.

So why all the construction failures in China? The options of unclear standards, lack of proper inspection, poor craft training, corruption,  etc could all play a part, but the truth is that no one really knows. The lack of transparency in their system of government keeps everything fuzzy.

One of the great advantages of the American republic is the various methods of getting to clarity. Between freedom of speech, the courts and other dispute resolution methods and the press, we have a fairly decent chance of avoiding cover-ups. Through various channels, the truth tends to sneak out.

When the Kansas City Hyatt Hotel collapsed,  we learned from ENR exactly which connections failed and how the process occurred. Many Engineers and Contractors changed policies and procedures as a result of these reports. The free flow of information makes us better.

Regarding the building collapses in China,the construction world will probably never get clear answers regarding what happened and who was at fault. This does a dis-service to every party involved.

As an aside, since I mentioned the courts and dispute resolution above, I encourage you to read the blog post on mediation. The writer does an excellent job of summing the pros and cons and things you should know if you’re considering mediation. By the way, I’m not sure how much of the ENR website you can get to if you’re not a subscriber. Please let me know if you can’t access this link.


  1. Some interesting footage: Fall down and go boom:

  2. Better hire a new foundation guy!

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