Secrets of Beijing's tallest skyscraper China Zun#China Newsweek#-Sino-US

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Secrets of Beijing's tallest skyscraper China Zun

Beijing will soon see another milestone in super-tall building construction since the main construction work of the city’s tallest skyscraper China Zun has been finished, and the building will be open for commercial use next year.

From anywhere in the urban area, look up into the sky, and you will see the towering China Zun. The building’s curving form resembles an ancient Chinese ceremonial vessel called “zun.”

The building has a special significance for Beijing, both ancient and modern. It is certain that China Zun will become another symbol of Beijing, in addition to the ancient imperial palaces.

In the 37th issue of 2018, the China Newsweek magazine ran a cover story on China Zun, illustrating stories behind building the new symbol of Beijing.

Below is an excerpt of the article.

Located near the intersection of Chang’an Avenue and East Third Ring Road in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, the skyscraper China Zun has become a landmark in the vicinity even though it has not been finished and open to the public.

The 528-meter building has eight floors underground and 108 floors above the ground, rising over the China World Trade Center Tower 3 by 198 meters to become the city’s tallest building.

Workers are now working on internal decoration and adjusting power and other systems in the building that will house offices and meeting space and have sightseeing and other services.

Wang Wuren, deputy chairman and managing director of CITIC HEYE Investment Co, said the building will be completed by the end of this year, and will be in operation in the second quarter next year.

China Zun has determined the skyline of Beijing at 528 meters, and around it there are other 18 tall buildings in an area of about 30 hectares -- the core area of Beijing’s central business district (CBD).

How could this super tall building with a strong Chinese element rise there, and what are the stories behind it?

Winning a bid

A total of 280 plans were presented by 61 bidders to Beijing authorities on August 2, 2010, to win the development rights of 12 pieces of land in the CBD’s core area.

Among the bidders, there were real estate giants such as Wanda Group, SOHO China, and financial companies such as CITIC Group and Minsheng Bank, as well as foreign companies and Internet giants such as Shanda Group.

About the CBD’s core area, Beijing expects it to be a functional center and a visual focusing on the future, and therefore, it held two rounds of bidding for the development there, and design was the first consideration.

In 2009, Beijing adjusted the planning for the CBD’s core area, hoping it to better demonstrate Beijing’s urban development, said Shao Weiping, who took charge of China Zun’s design.

The new planning demands high integration of infrastructure facilities, redefining the relationship among people, urban transportation system, landscape and buildings, said Shao, chief executive architect of the government-owned Beijing Institute of Architectural Design (BIAD).

On November 15, 2010, Beijing authorities published the bidding plans including CITIC plan to build Beijing’s tallest building on Z15 land. The Zun building designed by CITIC, the BIAD and other companies topped others.

Three companies, CITIC, Wanda and HNA Group, entered the second round to offer prices of land, and finally CITIC won the land with a price of 6.3 billion yuan, higher than HNA’s 5.95 billion yuan and Wanda’s 4.5 billion yuan.

On December 23, 2010, CITIC gained the bid document for the Z15 land.

“In general, it is a success for CITIC, because it is the winner of the land and also its development plan is picked. In many cases, the winner of the land does not match up with the development plan,” Shao said.

Building details

One year after winning the Z15 land, CITIC HEYE Investment Co was established in November 2011 for China Zun project, and Wang Wuren was the head of the new company and he joined CITIC three months earlier.

Inspired by the concept of engineering procurement construction in the global market, Wang decided to build a consortium to cover the gaps between concept and design, and between design and construction.

Among the three, the design would determine 70 percent of the total investment for skyscrapers, said Wang. Except for the construction cost, the design also determined the operation cost.

According to the data from British firm DEGW, the ratio of cost in construction and operation was 1: 3 to 1:4. If the construction of China Zun demanded 18 billion yuan, then its operation cost would be 54 to 72 billion.

Shao said that China Zun project had unprecedented design precision. Designers have fully carried out examinations for the plan’s feasibility and economy to find better design and reduce the potential cost of construction and operation.

After the general plan of China Zun was put in place, Wang had to worry about the approval procedures, as he said the development of skyscrapers always involves long time, huge investment, and intensive work.

He said that if a project’s investment was 20 billion, the interest would be 100 million a month, and if the project was extended one or two years, the cost would increase.

Fortunately, in 2014, the Beijing government offered simple streamlining procedures to approve the China Zun project, and the construction work was one and half years ahead of a regular schedule, according to Wang.


Fire problem is always a challenge for skyscrapers. Due to special structure and functional demands, fire could spread fast and people have little time to escape. A fire engine could only shoot water as high as 60 meters.

When a fire occurs, putting it out always depends on the internal fire-fighting facilities.

Companies usually install temporary fire-fighting facilities during the construction and dismantle the facilities later, but there may be a time gap when the internal fire-fighting facilities are not installed.

To solve the issue, for the first time, workers constructed in China Zun a combined fire-fighting system of temporary and permanent facilities, installing permanent facilities during construction.

Every 12 floors, a shelter is built. At floor 103, a water tank of 690 cubic meters is installed.

The project has also created some other milestones, such as the world’s tallest building to withstand a magnitude-eight earthquake, the deepest pit for civil use buildings (40 meters) in China and the largest base area (6,084 square meters) of skyscrapers in the world.

Besides the 528-meter structure above the ground, China Zun has eight floors underground, and a 6.5-meter thick concrete bottom. Beneath the concrete bottom are 896 steel poles with the length of 46 meters and diameter of 1 to 1.2 meters. The poles reach the rock stratum.

Xu Lishan, an executive of CSCEC Third Bureau High-end Management Co who is in charge of China Zun construction, said that the bottom was 136 meters long from east to west and 84 meters wide from north to south.

Now, more than 3,500 workers and 700 engineers are working day and night at the building, aiming to complete the work on time by the end of this year.

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