Skip to main content

Permit lapse may ground construction of world's tallest building in China

By Ramy Inocencio and Audrey Shi for CNN
July 26, 2013 -- Updated 0904 GMT (1704 HKT)
Broad Group officials unveiled what was supposed to be the start of the construction phase on July 20.
Broad Group officials unveiled what was supposed to be the start of the construction phase on July 20.
  • Chinese state media reports Sky City does not have required permits to start construction
  • Sky City, developed by Broad Group, planned to be world's tallest building at 838 meters
  • Broad Group to CNN: 'We have not yet started work'
  • Broad Group will use pre-fabricated steel-concrete blocks to build Sky City by April 2014

Hong Kong (CNN) -- The plan to raise what would be the world's tallest building in a dizzyingly fast time is in danger of not getting off the ground at all.

According to reports in Chinese state media, Broad Group, the developers for Sky City, have so far failed to get the proper permits required to proceed with construction. The company put the first spade in the ground in the 202-story project to much fanfare on July 20.

Developers hope it could be built within the year.

The 838-meter construction in Changsha, the capital of China's central Hunan province, would rise ten meters higher than the world's current tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

"Broad is still currently in the beginning stages of arranging the construction project," a Changsha Urban Planning Department representative told CNN.

"So far, they've undergone the process to obtain 136 mu [22 acres] of land, but that's it. They're still in the very basic beginning stages. We've been giving a lot of attention to this case, and everything they've done has been according to law."

Building even taller than the Burj?
Living the high life in New York City
Time-lapse of One WTC spire installation

For its part Broad Group insisted everything was above board. "We have not yet started work on Changsha's Sky City," a Broad Group press officer told CNN. He added that they have evidence to show no laws have been broken.

Penalties for illegal construction vary widely across China between the countryside and cities, as well as between residential and commercial use.

In Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, baseline fines for illegal construction range from 5% to 10% with investigative fees as much as doubling the amount. Additional penalties for various infractions can then double the original fine, according to one official government website.

In the southwest megacity of Chongqing, the fine for the illegal construction of a commercial building is 50% of the cost of construction, according to another government site.

If similar penalties exist in Changsha as for Chongqing, Broad Group could be fined nearly $750 million. Sky City's total construction cost is $1.46 billion.

Construction advocates have touted Sky City's green credentials: It will save on energy and land use, creating an all-in-one home, office, shopping, farming and recreation environment for some 30,000 residents that no one ever needs to leave.

Critics -- including architectural experts and the Chinese public -- worry about safety because of the use of non-traditional building techniques and the pace of construction. Broad Group pioneered the use of pre-fabricated steel-and-concrete blocks -- akin to Lego blocks -- that can be quickly hoisted into place. While the Burj Khalifa took five years to build, Broad Group says this "fast-building technology" means it can construct Sky City in just ten months.

Sky City will be completed in April 2014, said Broad Group in earlier statements.

However when questioned by CNN, the company's press officer hesitated to provide a start date for construction. He added that plans will be announced at an as-yet unscheduled future press conference, leaving construction plans for Sky City firmly frozen on the ground.

Part of complete coverage on
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 0934 GMT (1734 HKT)
One Square Meter explores how Detroit is building for the future after filing for bankruptcy in 2013.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1107 GMT (1907 HKT)
A British luxury retailer known for high-teas and hamper baskets opens its first ever shop abroad. John Defterios reports.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
Already the world's second biggest retail destination, the city is investing in a semi-yearly fashion event for regional talent. Leone Lakhani reports.
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1537 GMT (2337 HKT)
Cyprus, the tiny Mediterranean island bailed a year ago, is starting to rebuild itself, the finance minister tells CNN.
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Mobile World Congress spans the full spectrum of untethered gadgetry Explore this year's top trends with Stuff Magazine Editor Will Findlater.
April 8, 2014 -- Updated 1203 GMT (2003 HKT)
CNN's John Defterios says India's election race will likely boil down to three simple numbers: growth, inflation and interest rates.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1107 GMT (1907 HKT)
More than a million Londoners live in flatshares. And while this used to be associated with students, more mature people find themselves sharing.
April 2, 2014 -- Updated 1050 GMT (1850 HKT)
Nina Dos Santos visits Baselworld the world's most prestigious event for top jewelry and watch brands.
April 2, 2014 -- Updated 1324 GMT (2124 HKT)
Will Xi Jinping's historic visit to the European Union headquarters help the Chinese leader get what he needs from the EU?
March 28, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
Binnaz Saktanber says many feel trapped between their brains, telling them to leave Turkey, and hearts, which tell them to stay.
April 1, 2014 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
"I thought I'd sold it," says Norwegian man who left luxury boat in marina two years -- with keys tied to railings. What happened?
April 2, 2014 -- Updated 1027 GMT (1827 HKT)
The United Kingdom is champagne's biggest export market. CNN's Isa Soares reports on what's driving sales.
March 26, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
"Sorry, I don't go south of the river," was once a common refrain from London taxi drivers. Not anymore. South London is booming.
March 21, 2014 -- Updated 1834 GMT (0234 HKT)
The list of Russians targeted by Western sanctions includes people from Vladimir Putin's inner circle -- including his judo sparring partner.
March 25, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
Her passion for public speaking and networking have earned Julia Hobsbawm the moniker "queen of networking." What is her secret?
Google Glass is trying to shed its public relations problem of a nerdy image by teaming up with the company behind Ray-Bans and Oakley sunglasses.
March 24, 2014 -- Updated 1337 GMT (2137 HKT)
European leaders are meeting in Brussels to discuss further sanctions against Russia. But they are likely to be cautious. Here is why.