Monthly Archives: November 2012

China aims for world’s tallest building — in 90 days

Chinese company Broad Sustainable Building Corp. erects buildings on ridiculously short time frames: It built a low-rise office in nine days earlier this year and a 30-story hotel in 15 days last year.

How do you top that? You build the world’s tallest building in 90 days — duh.

In early 2013, Broad will start building Sky City in the city of Changsha in the Hunan province. At 2,749 feet tall, it will be nearly 33 feet taller than the Burj Khalifa, the current height champion.

Sky City is a fitting name: The building will have apartments for more than 30,000 people, schools, a hospital and more than a dozen helipads.

But, what will be sacrificed by using pre-fab components to construct the world’s tallest building in record time? In a word: style.

Sky City looks like a massive block built from Legos. In contrast, the Burj Khalifa resembles a giant stalagmite reaching for the stratosphere.

More interesting architecture can be found in some of China’s other skyscrapers: the 2,073-foot-tall Shanghai Tower (under construction), the 1,667-foot-tall Taipei 101 and the 1,476-foot-tall Nanjing Greenland Financial Complex.

Sky City

Burj Khalifa

Shanghai Tower

Taipei 101

Nanjing Greenland

WSDOT crews get down and dirty at Montlake

Washington State Department of Transportation maintenance workers will be in the pits this Sunday when they perform an annual cleanup ritual deep inside Seattle’s Montlake Bridge.
Leaves and garbage collect in the bridge pits where the counterweights sit, threatening to jam-up operations. Crews will be using a vactor truck to suck up the debris.
The left lanes in both directions will be closed from 6 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. for the work.

L&I busts Eastern Washington contractors

In its quest to crack down on unlicensed contractors, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries says it made surprise visits to 63 work sites in Chelan and Douglas counties this past weekend.

The result? Eleven contractors were cited for either lacking a state registration or for not being registered for the work they were doing. Each first-time offense carries a $1,000 fine.

“An unregistered contractor typically has no liability insurance, no bond, and pays no taxes or workers’ comp,” said Dean Simpson, manager of L&I’s construction compliance program, in a release. “That means they’re leaving consumers unprotected and are unfairly competing with reputable contractors who do great work and meet the requirements.”

Simpson said his program has stepped up staffing and focus, inspecting more than 10,000 jobsites in the last fiscal year — 56 percent more visits and 39 percent more violations uncovered than in the previous year.

Mark Straub, executive officer for the North Central Home Builders Association, said his group supports L&I’s crackdown.

“We continue to receive numerous calls from consumers who thought they were getting ‘a great deal,’ only to discover that they have little or no recourse when they’re ultimately left in a lurch by these bad actors,” Straub said in the release.

L&I has carried out surprise inspections at 257 work sites, issuing 41 citations, since the agency began sweeps in August. The agency also found a number of other violations relating to uncertified plumbers, underage workers and unpermitted work on manufactured homes.

“We want to show people we’re out there, even on the weekends,” Simpson said. “We want unregistered contractors to know we will find them and for honest contractors to know we’re not ignoring this problem.”

L&I’s contractor compliance program has 21 inspectors around the state that make random site visits and respond to tips. Contractors can register at

Now that work’s picking up, what’s it like “out there?” It’s all about risk

Recently, I had occasion to be a part of two free-ranging discussions of generals and subs about what they are experiencing now that work is picking up. The consistent theme was risk: risk assessment, risk management, risk assignment, risk shifting – you get the idea. Owners are hiring more owner’s reps and construction managers to have better control and watch over their projects more closely. Bank inspectors are more present and thorough. Owners and generals are more concerned about bonding. Not necessarily that there is a bond in place (which costs money!) but that they know the contractor or sub downstream from them is bondable. Contracts are more customized and lengthy, mostly addressing risk issues. No one, it seems, uses a “standard” contract any more – good news for attorneys on both sides of the paperwork. More subs are asking for the Owner-GC contract. Generals are astonished that all subs aren’t asking to see it. Generals and subs should both do whatever they have to do to satisfy themselves that the money is really there to pay them – or risk a nasty surprise. In a complicated, multi-layered, relationship-rich industry like construction, risk is an ever-present concern. It seems like, while it has always been a concern, there is even more emphasis on it now. Understandable, given the last few years and the current environment, but its kind of sad when one contractor related, “I don’t see myself as a contractor any more. Now I am a risk manager.” Bet he was having more fun building stuff!