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Jim Klinge, broker-associate
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Encinitas, CA 92024
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Jim Klinge
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Posted by on Nov 29, 2010 in Builders, Thinking of Building? | 13 comments | Print Print

Shoddy Construction

Hat tip to Kingside for sending this along, after seeing the video on the 6-day construction of a Chinese office building – from the WSJ, dated June, 2009:

A nearly finished, newly constructed building in Shanghai toppled over, killing one worker.  As can be seen in the photo below, the 13-story apartment building collapsed with just enough room to escape what would have been a far more destructive domino effect involving other structures in the 11-building complex:

The development, known as “Lotus Riverside,” has a total of 629 units, 489 of which have already been sold. Now buyers are clamoring to get their money back, and authorities are making efforts to reassure them.  Some owners are concerned even if they are able to return the purchase and get the original price they paid for the housing market has gone up so much since the day of purchase. They are worried they will not be able to get another house for the same price.

The disaster could reveal some uncomfortable facts about lax construction practices in China, where buildings are put up in a hurry by largely unskilled migrant workers, and developers may be tempted to take shortcuts.

According to Shanghai Daily, initial investigations attribute the accident to the excavations for the construction of a garage under the collapsed building. Large quantities of earth were removed and dumped in a landfill next to a nearby creek; the weight of the earth caused the river bank to collapse, which, in turn, allowed water to seep into the ground, creating a muddy foundation for the building that toppled.

The South China Morning Post noted that the pilings used in the Lotus Riverside development, made of prestressed, precast concrete piles, are outlawed in Hong Kong because they aren’t strong enough to support the kind of ultra-high buildings that are common in Hong Kong. But in mainland China, they are often used because buildings there are typically much shorter.


  1. Wow, only through a bizarre coincidence did this building collapse before people moved in.

  2. It’s like my sister-in-law is always trying to tell me … Shanghai real estate is going places.

  3. while the foundation/soils work was poorly done, I was impressed that the bldg itself looked incredibly well built that it didn’t crumble after the fall. It looks remarkebly strong considering what it just did.

  4. That’s amazing. Notice how the windows are still intact.

    I wonder what the survivability would have been if one had been inside the building when it fell. You would probably have some bad bruises, but not piled under tons of brick and concrete. It held together surprisingly well (I’m not an engineer).

    Of course, from experiences like this, hopefully better building practices and methods come about. Luckily it was done with minimal loss to human life. I can think of many more disasters which had much greater loss.


  5. New marketing push – “Every unit has multiple sky-lights !”

  6. Unfortunately, China is so corrupt that incidents like these will continue to happen. The corruption spreads across all government agencies, from the lowly civil servant to the top political officer, all sticking out their hand for whatever bribes they can get.

    And this corruption is not unique to the Communist regime. One of the reasons for the Chinese Revolution was the level of corruption found in the former Republic of China (not to be confused with Taiwan). Unfortunately, the culture of corruption simply jumped from one political regime to another.

    It will take nothing less than a massive change of attitude by both the people and the government to resolve this matter once and for all.

  7. Great link, Jim. As others have mentioned, pretty amazing how it fell but “survived”, as it were. Of course, being China, they’ll probably execute the foreman, president of the Construction company and the journalist who took the photos.

  8. New sales bullet point:

    Park right outside your door!
    No extra charge!

  9. The lateral soil pressure snapped the piles.
    Soil pressure in this case was created by weight of wet excavated earth placed on the opposite side of the big hole they created.

  10. Real Estate there is GOING DOWN!

  11. Didn’t anyone tell them that building “13” stories was unlucky?

  12. In my new apartment building, I live on floor 12A i.e. the 13th floor. I was actually disappointed that the floor wasn’t properly labeled “13” as I really love to fly in the face of common superstitions.

    Also, the rent is about $70 less per month than the rent for the same apartment on the adjoining floors. 🙂

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