China has been known for its tofu-dreg projects for many years. Buildings that had only been in place for a short while collapsed, and many building projects that had been created but never used, also collapsed.

The state, property developers, and individuals have contributed to these tofu-dreg projects. In cases involving the government, these tofu-dreg projects result from governmental corruption. So what causes the collapse of private constructions? Let’s investigate the following tales.

Building No.14 in a real estate project named Country Garden Longyue, constructed and developed by Country Garden Group in Xi’an of Shaanxi, shows signs of subsidence and tilt just three months after delivery.

Newtalk outlet reported on July 8 that the project developer is investigating the cause of uneven settlement of the building. However, they have entrusted a qualified third party to identify the actual cause.

A social media user said he bought his apartment in October 2019. But when he received his home in March of this year, he discovered that the whole building gradually started sinking and tilting to one side simultaneously. He had just moved in three months ago. 

He added that after learning about the issue, he immediately reported his findings to the developer and construction authority. However, they did not reply with instructions on solving the problems but blamed each other.

Country Garden is a large-scale enterprise headquartered in Guangdong and focuses mainly on real estate development. In 2019, the business won double national awards in sales volume of about $3.8 billion and an area of 36 million sq. ft., ranking first in the real estate industry.

A user on the Toutiao platform wrote, “Country Garden created an abnormally high turnover from top to bottom to receive huge bonuses without being

penalized. The quality of the project must be sacrificed in order to meet the deadline.” [Picture 3]

Another user wrote, “Three days for a floor is a joke. Concrete achieves its strength in 28 days, and the cure ranges from 7 days to 14 days. In fact, everyone knows that.” [Picture 2]

Another wrote, “Don’t encourage friends to buy a house in Country Garden, high turnover without respecting the quality of the project at all. In order to keep up with the project progress and receive the performance bonus, the un-drying concrete continued to be applied. Anyone who buys it will have a headache.” [Picture 1]

It isn’t the first case of a collapsed building. Before that, a 13-story building in the Lianhua Riverside Jingyuan project also collapsed. However, it was a particular case in that it was not yet delivered.

Building 7 collapsed at a construction site on Lianhua South Road, Minhang District, Shanghai, on June 27, 2009, resulting in the death of one worker. Fortunately, since the collapsed high-rise building had not yet been completed, the accident did not result in casualties among potential residents.

According to Sina, a middle-aged woman at the scene seemed frightened, with a nervous expression. The reporter stepped forward to ask and learned that she had seen the building collapse with her own eyes, and she was so frightened that she had not yet recovered. 

She said that she lived in Luoyang No. 5 Village, next door to the collapsed building with a wall adjacent to her building.

The middle-aged woman pointed to her home and told reporters, Every day, she gets up early and goes out to exercise. She suddenly heard a loud bang, turned her head to look at it, and was terrified. She saw that the 13th-floor high-rise building had suddenly collapsed. It was gone all of a sudden. She was so frightened that her legs were shaking.

The witness said she worried about whether the building she lives in would be affected. It’s too close, so she has always been uneasy and scared.

Years later, many Chinese shared their fears when the quality of construction in China didn’t improve. As a result, many buildings collapsed or were dismantled.

As China Sand and Stone Association reported, the Tianjin Yuecui Ming Residence project consists of three high-rise buildings with 24 to 29 floors, three small high-rise buildings with 11 floors, 12 houses with six to seven floors, and one commercial apartment. 

In April 2018, a widely disseminated internal document from the Tianjin Municipal Construction Committee showed that individual buildings in the Tianfang Yuemeijiang project had quality problems. The reason was concrete strength that did not meet the design requirements. As a result, more than a dozen buildings had to be dismantled, at a loss of about $103 million.

The Zhongkang Greentown Lily Garden project, located in Zhangqiu District, Jinan City, had four high-rise residential buildings that were mostly sold. But due to the substandard concrete strength, the dealer dismantled the buildings. Some real estate industry veterans pointed out this is unheard of in Jinan’s architectural history.

A residential building collapsed after tilting on August 28, 2019. The accident occurred in a residential building on the west side of Building 71, Heping New Residence, Chuanbu Street, Luohu District, Shenzhen. No casualties were reported. According to the official report, the cause of the collapse was poor soil and culverts.

How can a building collapse? Let’s consider the answer from Chinese authorities.

For the collapse of the building in the Lianhua Riverside Jingyuan project, the State Council Information Office of China announced the reason in July 2009. 

The main reason was that it was close to the north side of Building 7, and the soil was too high for a short period. The highest point was about 33 ft. At the same time, the foundation pit of the underground garage adjacent to the south side of the building was excavated. 

The excavation depth is 15 ft. The pressure difference on both sides of the building caused the soil to have a horizontal displacement. The excessive horizontal force exceeds the lateral resistance capacity of the pile foundations, causing the house to collapse.

And six indirect reasons for the collapse of the building were:

First improper earthwork height.

Second, the excavation of foundation pits violated relevant regulations.

Third, supervision was not in place.

Fourth, the management was not in place.

Fifth, safety measures were not in place.

Sixth, the construction of the enclosure piles was not up to standard.

However, the reporter saw at the scene that the building fell to the south, and the 13-story building was not completely shattered during the collapse. However, dozens of concrete pipe piles at the bottom of the building that was supposed to go deep into the ground were “neatly” broken. 

The reporter noticed that some of the concrete cross-sections seemed to have a small number of honeycomb-shaped voids on the piles that fell to the ground. 

The reporter also saw that, as the foundation pile’s most critical stress point, the foundation pile’s exposed steel reinforcement was only as thick as a thumb. As a result, foundation piles were scattered everywhere at the bottom of the collapsed building. 

These piles were cylindrical, some were solid, some were hollow, and there were small pores in the cross-section of some “cylinders.” 

Why were some pile foundations hollow cement pipes? In response to the question, Jiang Huancheng, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said that open piles are an excellent pile type, save materials, and have vertical solid bearing capacity. At the same time, from a design perspective, buildings generally do not rely on pile foundations to resist horizontal thrust.

As a part of building materials, cement, sand, and concrete are closely related to building construction safety. However, besides objective reasons, China authorities also confirmed many cases of substandard materials, which can lead to the collapse of a structure.

The walls of the second through fifth stories were constructed using porous bricks at a house in Huzhu Road and Baihua Road, Zhongyuan District, Zhengzhou, Henan. Unfortunately, it had a significant weak section. As a result, the wall bricks have lost their strength, and severe safety hazards exist. 

A house resident touched the wall with his palm and shattered the bricks. And when they were kicked, they turned into slag. 

The Henan Provincial Academy of Building Research inspection in April 2014 confirmed that this construction had poor quality materials.

People’s Daily Online reported that, at that time, developers, construction units, and supervisors all pointed fingers at the brick factory.

After discovering many constructions of poor quality, some provinces and cities inspected cement, concrete, sand, and gravel enterprises.

Guiyang’s regulator, in October 2019, issued a report on the inspection of the city’s ready-mixed concrete enterprises. 

According to the report, 29 concrete enterprises were randomly inspected. Among them, 16 companies were required to rectify construction within a time limit due to some problems, and eight enterprises were ordered to suspend production.

In Hainan, regulators made a surprise inspection of the quality of ready-mixed concrete, and seven enterprises failed.

In Xinjiang, some enterprises had no qualified person to inspect cement production enterprises.

Due to the tight supply in Chongqing, a large amount of inferior sand and gravel flooded the market and entered concrete production enterprises. As a result, it has severely impacted the quality of concrete production.

Substandard materials and corrupt local officials cause collapse

On August 29, 2020, the Juxian Hotel in Chenzhuang Village, Taosi Township, Xiangfen County, Linfen City collapsed, resulting in 29 deaths and 28 injuries, and an economic loss of $1.7 million. Accordingly, 41 relevant public officials were given party discipline, admonishment, criticism, and other similar measures.

The direct cause of the accident was the poor structural integrity of the Juxian Hotel. The load-bearing brick columns and the roof on the second story were badly overloaded—often a sign of a lack of professional design and unqualified construction. At the same time, heavy rainfall’s impact was another reason that eventually led to the overall collapse. 

The Party Central Committee and the State Council of China determined that the local government and regulators didn’t earnestly perform their duties of safety supervision.

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