That said, the Broad building looks to have the necessary systems (perhaps not fire suppression) and it looks in the video like they build the crane into the building (which is sort of a waste of a crane) but it is "space." Now if he wanted to impress folks he could build two of those in Haiti for the folks who are still living in tents because their shacks did not survive an earthquake.
There'll always be a place for one-offs, of course; and in prestige markets like NYC it'll almost always be so.
But a lot of the world's construction is really quite simple in requirements, and centralising manufacturing must surely make it more efficient overall.
This already happens somewhat for "big box" stores and warehouses, with some adjustment it just seems like an obvious step to me.
I'd be interested in hearing from construction industry experts as to why this isn't already the norm.
These components still use onsite assembly because of shipping costs. It's obvious why you can't easily ship someone a 1,500 sq ft house from China. Even shipping sub components (like say a wall) is more expensive than shipping someone a stack of 2x4s and some nails and paying someone to nail it together.
Prefab homes exist, but they are more expensive than traditional homes per square foot for nice homes that are bigger than a double-wide trailer, so they remain a bit of a novelty (in the US anyway). The fact that the market has yet to find a way to drive down the cost using prefab makes me wonder if onsite assembly isn't in fact the cheapest form of construction at our disposal today.
A narrower set of financing options for prefab homes exists as opposed to traditionally constructed homes. That leads to a pretty serious difference in demand, and an awful lot of the price difference might just come from that.
These videos of fast-builds are only for commercial buildings that are inherently and permanently modular, like hotels.
This could also be because some of these programs are actually hard to make (and some are) but it's also due to the fact that they have to keep reinventing the wheel and don't transfer institutional knowledge/expertise across projects or scale out their time.
They'll pursue this through "lowest" bid contracts, sales teams, obscure knowledge (APIs/systems/building codes), "personal networks" and other inefficient and economically wasteful mechanisms to maximise their take.
Product companies don't have this problem.
Prices are non-negotiable, things must meet exacting standards, things must be standardized, their is no institutional knowledge and there isn't any customization.
You get what you pay for - and that's it.
Java shops and aerospace contractors are starting to meet their reckoning with the rise of SAAS apps and vertically integrated companies like Tesla/SpaceX/Solar city. Who wants a customized rocket when I can get an off the shelf fully tested and consistent Falcon 9 for ~$60 million (even less than what China charges)?
Construction is the next industry.
Products > services for the simple reason that they are more cheaply produced, easily sold, iterated upon and created.
Drive around a modern city in Asia and you'll likely see kilometer after kilometer of cookie cutter apartment buildings, with building plans so simple, they could almost be replaced with stacks of cargo containers and a central elevator shaft.
I may be wrong, but I'd be highly surprised if there wasn't a tremendous amount of prefab on display here.
...hallways are uncomfortably narrow; climbing the central stairway feels like clanging up the stairs of a stadium bleacher.
It’s worth noting, though, that the majority of apartment buildings going up in China are equally ugly. Broad’s biggest selling point, amazingly enough, is in the quality.
This is a practical demonstration of a streamlined factory-based building construction system. The general idea has been around as long as the industrial revolution, but it seems to me that their impressive execution of it really marks the start of a major technological shift.
That said, the USA stopped having the largest skycrapers because they stopped making sense in a world where technology can close even the biggest physical gaps.
- Channel capacity remains approximately the same per user, so in high density areas, you need more towers.
- RF signals are heavily reflected and/or shielded by the vast "concrete canyons" of a modern city, so more towers are needed to eliminate shadows.
I don't think skyscrapers (usually commercial use) are particularly correlated with suburban sprawl (residential use) one way or the other. You can have one with or without the other.
I think the gated / fortress mentality of upmarket high-rise accommodation is corrosive to a sense of community. I'm more in favour of walkable streets than either of short car or elevator trips.
High-rises do not have to be at odds with walkable streets or a sense of community. High-density residential housing can more easily support neighborhood shops and restaurants. People meet each other in their building gyms. Kids can have friends in the same building and visit them without needing to be escorted.
I had a great garden as a kid and access to one of the UK"s nicest woodland areas. I would be sad to not be able to give my children the same just so they can have 'friends in the same building'.
I personally find suburbs tremendously lonely and isolated, especially for families where the parents don't have time to drive kids to activities and friends. I grew up in a suburb and since I was old enough to take care of my little brother the two of us would just hang around at our house until our parents came home. Weekends became a tiresome exercise in our parents driving us around to activities and friends. And my parents had very little social life outside the family because there was nobody we could just "pop over" to see. Social activities had to be coordinated evenings and with everyones' busy schedules it happened once every month or two.
And once the kids are old enough to drive--well I don't want my daughter driving. The great thing about cities for people with money is that they can buy security from the risks of city living: crime, etc. Upper-middle class white or asian kids are about the safest demographic in a city. But you can't buy yourself security from the risks of the suburbs. Teenagers with cars are the most endangered demographic in a suburb.
I grew up poor in the city and I grew up middle class in the suburbs. Turns out my single mom didn't make more money, it just went further in the suburbs. We even had a more active social life after leaving the city. We weren't allowed to go to the park because drug dealers and users had basically over ran it. I found a used condom in the sandpit and asked my mom to blow it up because I thought it was a balloon. After that incident we moved to a sunny suburb with a clean swimming pool, parks in every direction, and shopping center within walking distance.
The city is a great place to live if you have money, for everyone else the burbs aren't so bad.
I grew up in a 2500 person country side village in England. That village had everything we needed and it was only 30 minutes bus ride away from the neatest large town. It was also 45 mins train ride away from the nearest city.
Disclaimer: I live in downtown Chicago.
Still, I would take density over sprawl, if push came to shove. I wish San Fracisco would adopt some of the Chinese practicality when it comes to urbanism --not the ugliness of the uniform apartment block buildings, but the allowing of change and growth.
I'm not really sure why you'd build anything other than skyscrapers. They're extremely efficient, and high-density development saves a lot of money on road construction.
I can't help but think his promotional material might read suspiciously like the spam in my inbox: 'Big erections, FAST!'
Architecture student: if civil engineers had their way, all buildings would be square concrete blocks
Civil engineering student: if architects had their way, all buildings would be beautiful, and collapse in the slightest breeze
I suppose this made perfect financial sense, but it does mean that there is no "collective knowledge pot" that people can pull against to ensure they don't make the same mistakes.
BTW in the wiki there were countless pages about concrete. Concrete pipes, concrete under water, concrete in a desert, concrete under stress, you name it. Ever tried tuning a search engine results page for concrete pipes?
And it seems all Wired articles behave the same. Annoying.
It is annoying though, a little bit of jQuery would fix it in about 5 seconds flat.
As much as I like Alexander's book, I wish people wouldn't buy into his opinions so wholeheartedly.
"To become an employee of Broad, you must recite a life manual penned by Zhang, guidelines that include tips on saving energy, brushing your teeth, and having children."
and George Pullman - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Pullman
(links to e.g. http://www.broad.com:8089/english/down/T30_Technical_Briefin...)
"Prefabricated skyscrapers can be inflexible. To create a lobby for this hotel, Broad had to stick an awkward pyramid onto the base."
Central planning of the national economy during the Warsaw Pact era left some cities in central and eastern Europe with some of the world's ugliest and most user-unfriendly "modern" architecture. Only in a country with a centrally planned economy could a builder come up with the idea that skyscrapers built like Lego toys will become the new standard for skyscrapers.
I think it's here on Hacker News where I learned most of the interesting story of the construction of the Burj Dubai (now Burj Khalifa) skyscraper. There were structural innovations in that building
that allowed it to reach its world-record height. It was also built during a crazy, boom economy, and it remains to be seen how soon, if ever, the building will produce an economic return for its investors.
I think the most thoughtful book I have ever read about architecture, published before Hacker News was founded, is Stewart Brand's How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built.
(Yes, the author is the same Stewart Brand who is famous among HN participants for saying "On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.") Brand's book How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built is all about the many modifications that building owners make to buildings over time as the economy changes, as new materials and technologies are invented, and as buildings change owners. The gee-whiz articles about what the Chinese builder PLANS to do with buildings made of pre-fab parts are less interesting to me than what the possibilities are for modifying such buildings after they are built.
AFTER EDIT: An interesting second-level comment below asked about
it looks in the video like they build the crane into the building (which is sort of a waste of a crane)
and that prompted me to look up an article about how the tower cranes that build the tallest skyscrapers interact with the buildings they build.
There are occasions when some parts of the crane's support structure is built into (or onto) the building as the building goes up, but usually the working part of the crane is disassembled and reused.
AFTER ONE MORE EDIT: While doing something else, I remembered that another Hacker News participant recently linked in a comment in another thread to Paul Graham's 2005 essay "The Submarine,"
about the public relations industry, and how "news" stories are inserted in the mainstream media. I have seen a lot of kind submissions to HN of stories about the Chinese builder's PLAN to build the world's tallest skyscraper out of pre-fab components, but those stories, even in the best instance, have included remarkably little actual reporting from the scene about the economic viability of the plan or how well the builder's existing buildings are liked by owners or occupants. He has a great publicity machine, but I'd like to know more about the buildings.
But before we completely dismiss the idea of using prefabricated elements, consider the good old bricks, which are basically prefabricated elements that allow for enormous flexibility. Same with roof tiles.
To me it seems that prefabricated elements become a problem if they are too large relative to the building's total size. It's hard to make an interesting lego house using 200 lego bricks because the square shape of the lego bricks define the shape of the house. But if you use 20,000 lego bricks the shape of the building doesn't appear to be defined by the shape of the individual bricks. Sort of the same way fonts appear ugly on low resolution screens.
Prefabricated elements should be smaller.
The minima for cost will always be, make the elements as large as feasible.
Also if the parts become standardised then maybe it really would count as 15 days.