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Beijing just grew 74 storeys taller

Within 33 ear-popping seconds, the gilded elevator hit the 80th floor inside the tapering blue tower that is technically only 74 floors high.

world Updated: Sep 10, 2010 00:09 IST
Reshma Patil

Within 33 ear-popping seconds, the gilded elevator hit the 80th floor inside the tapering blue tower that is technically only 74 floors high. "This building is moving. You just won't feel it," Goman Ho, a director of the engineering firm Arup which led the project told this correspondent on top of China's tallest building in a high seismic zone.

Beijing grew taller this month, but you'll only get confused if you count the floors. The Chinese dread unlucky numbers so the capital's tallest new building — and the world's 33rd highest — skips naming floors after certain numbers like the Mandarin word for four, si, which sounds similar to 'death'.

From the top of China World Trade Centre Phase-3, we gazed down on the roof of the still unopened 51-storey leaning, linked towers of China Central Television that is in size second to the Pentagon and the country's biggest office space. The first two phases of the China World Trade Centre had just 39 floors.

McKinsey estimates that Chinese cities will build the equivalent of 10 New Yorks or 50,000 skyscrapers by 2030. As Chinese cities compete to touch the sky, Beijing's tallest building is no rival to Shanghai's 101-storey bottle-opener shaped financial centre.

"There'll be more tall buildings in Beijing, there's no limit how tall," says Ho, supervising a 117-storey project, in Tianjin.

The Chinese media flaunted that Beijing's new concrete and steel tower with an eight-storey deep foundation and high temperature-resistant steel coating could withstand 'an aerial terrorist attack'. Ho wouldn't go so far as to say that but he explained that its robustness plan included encasing steel inside concrete to protect the core from fire for a longer duration. Five floors include furniture-free refuge areas where people can be safe from a fire.

Building skyscrapers with greater resistance to earthquakes and plane crashes is now a standard feature. The builders of Beijing's tallest building found the speed of construction more challenging. The basic structure rose within 15 months, to be completed before the 2008 Olympics. The government's main demand was an 'iconic' design. What comes next, will be finding occupants.