Building Collapse in Shanghai

Sunday, June 28, 2009 22:15
Posted in category Invest in China

The Chinese web site Sohu reported one of the more bizarre episodes in recent memory, as one building of a multi-phase residential construction project literally fell over in an early morning rain storm killing one person on the construction site.

The 13-floor building is – was – located on Shanghai’s Jian Hua Nan Lu in Minhang district and was nearing completion when the accident occurred. It is reported that more than 200 units in the complex had been sold and as news of the collapse spread, angry home-owners began to appear to demand a resolution.

This incident brings into clear focus the problem of construction quality in the real estate industry. In western countries the standards is for commercial housing stock and commercial office stock is expected to have a life of between 60 – 80 years. Downtown Chicago, for example, contains office buildings that are more than 70 years old that have been renovated to extend their lives for another 20.

By contrast anyone surveying Shanghai can see housing and office stock constructed within the past 20-30 years that has become dilapidated more quickly than expected due not only to the use of low-grade construction materials, poor construction quality and poor management. In the case of this property in Minhang, the inevitable results just occurred more quickly.

– Guest Writer: Zhou Zhi Min

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8 Responses to “Building Collapse in Shanghai”

  1. Rich says:

    June 29th, 2009 at 12:43 am


    Imagine what the neighbors were thinking when the building fall over?

    One of the topics I come back to is that China’s model of building management is part of the problem. Tenants pay a monthly fee to an outside firm who has no position in the building, and has no real responsibility for the life long investments that need to be made.

    Perhaps the system would benefit from the introduction of a co-op model? What legal barriers to that exist?


  2. Graham says:

    June 29th, 2009 at 5:39 am

    The Sohu link is down…hmm.

  3. Rich says:

    June 29th, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Graham – yeah, cause that will make the whole thing go away.

    Just in case, here are some other links reporting the failed building. Linkes that I am pretty sure will not be removed.

    Building Collapsed In Shanghai– ESWN
    Shanghai Building Collapses, Intact – WSJ
    Shanghai probes building collapse – BBC

    Of course, now that I have had 30 seconds to think about it, I guess these could all be blocked in should the powers be believe punishing news outlets were more important than punishing the people who poured the concrete on site.

  4. Rich says:

    June 29th, 2009 at 11:18 am

    In another story at the Shanghai Daily, some interesting details come out:

    1) The Website showed that the purchase price Meidu paid was almost one third of that paid by other developers for land nearby.

    Land in the same area was sold at 1,929 yuan per square meter in 2003.

    2) Meidu’s license for real estate projects was only “temporary” when it gained the land in an auction organized by the government in 2003.

    3) Media reports said that the company’s business license, which was issued on October 1, 2000, expired at the end of 2004.

    4) The company has a registered capital of only eight million yuan.

    Interesting that a firm with only a million USD in registered capital was able to secure the land and the financing for this project.

    Details I am sure will highlight that there are more poorly poured pillars to be found in Minhang.

  5. Zhou Ji-Ming says:

    July 3rd, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Update on this Building Collapse:

    There is a neat little illustration explaining the reason the reasons why it fell.
    Basically, the display shows that on one side of the building they were digging the car park out while on the otherside of the complex they were piling dirt…and this supposedly caused enough pressure to cause the building to fall over.

    Of course, it ignores the fact that the pilings were neither deep enough, strong enough or given a capacity test.

    Where were the engineers..?

  6. Rich says:

    July 4th, 2009 at 12:57 am


    That is just the dumbest explanation ever. That a pile of mud ushed it over. PErhaps the real reason was that the building was designed to sink once 80% occupied, and thus it was the fault of the sales department?

    currently living in the middle of a construction pit myself, I highly doubt that the mole hill of dirt that they are blaming is even from the “underground parking facility” as the standard for any Chinese site is to bring in trucks right away and move the mud once it is dug up.

    Perhaps more interesting to me than the fact that the pylons were clearly too short is the fact that I cannot see any rebar or caging of any kind. Some of them are 1 piece,but those that are not simply snapped off… and are HOLLOWED OUT.

    also… and it is hard to tell from the pictures, but how far along were they in the digging? I don’t see a pit of any kind.. and hard to see a single track of mud that looked dug out (the building still had mud attached to the bottom of it).

    More to come I am sure.


  7. richard T says:

    July 7th, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Based on the fact that all of the other buildings are standing and occupied all of the above comments are null and void.

    Based on the uniquie soil condition shown adjaceint to the fallen building clearly shows root casue being a slope stability failure brought on by the removal of soil beneath the building during the garage excavation aggravated by the super saturated soil conditions.

    Unless the other buildings do not have a garage my professional option (soley) based on the photos is a construction failure to address the excavation stability during construction and not a building design issue.

    The only enegineering issue would be should the one unique building with the adjacient slope have been designed to address the offending slope pressure during the construction? All AIA contracts would hold the contractor responsible under the means and methods provisions of the contract.

    Looking at the standing structures on level ground without the effect of the slpoe pressure is clear evidence of the root cause of the failure is not the building foundation design.

  8. Civil Engineering says:

    June 17th, 2011 at 11:42 am

    One of the topics I come back to is that China’s model of building management is part of the problem. Tenants pay a monthly fee to an outside firm who has no position in the building, and has no real responsibility for the life long investments that need to be made.