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
October 9, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea -- the three countries facing the biggest health crisis -- are also facing huge bills to try and contain the virus.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1316 GMT (2116 HKT)
Twitter has lost its position in the top 20 coolest brands for the first time in three years.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
As the crisis in Iraq escalates, CNN looks at how Iraq could crack down on ISIS' oil riches under the guidance of its new oil minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0842 GMT (1642 HKT)
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is Turkey's new president . So can he revitalize its economic fortunes?
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Experts share their tips on cities they see as emerging financial hubs...they're not where you think.
October 9, 2014 -- Updated 1511 GMT (2311 HKT)
Growing numbers of us are willing to serve as bank, teacher or travel agent to people we have never met, and entrust them to serve us in turn.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
The European Union is stepping in to save its dairy from going sour.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1236 GMT (2036 HKT)
Europe's deteriorating relationship with Russia has hit the region's growth, even before new food sanctions begin to bite.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1634 GMT (0034 HKT)
With cyberattacks on the rise and here to stay, it's a modern-day challenge for people and businesses to get smarter about preventing them.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1324 GMT (2124 HKT)
Airstrikes, rebels seizing control of oil fields, plus a severe refugee crisis are a recipe for market panic. So why are Iraq oil prices stable?
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1124 GMT (1924 HKT)
Peer-to-peer finance lets businesses bypass bank loans. Creative companies with quirky ideas find new lending models advantageous.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1524 GMT (2324 HKT)
Evidence points to pro-Russian separatists as perpetrators of the attack and Vladimir Putin is facing questions, David Clark writes.
September 3, 2014 -- Updated 0952 GMT (1752 HKT)
CNN's Jim Boulden looks on the future of online shopping.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1440 GMT (2240 HKT)
The biggest Ebola outbreak in history is taking its toll in Western Africa, hitting some of West Africa's most vulnerable economies.