Architecture Lab

Meet the Man Who Built a 30-Story Building in 15 Days

On this farmland in Hunan Province, Broad Sustainable Building plans to construct a 220-story skyscraper—the tallest in the world.
Meet the Man Who Built a 30-Story Building in 15 Days

Photo: Noah Sheldon

Zhang Yue, founder and chairman of Broad Sustainable Building, is not a particularly humble man. A humble man would not have erected, on his firm’s corporate campus in the Chinese province of Hunan, a classical palace and a 130-foot replica of an Egyptian pyramid. A humble man, for that matter, would not have redirected Broad from its core business—manufacturing industrial air-conditioning units—to invent a new method of building skyscrapers. And a humble man certainly wouldn’t be putting up those skyscrapers at a pace never achieved in history.

In late 2011, Broad built a 30-story building in 15 days; now it intends to use similar methods to erect the world’s tallest building in just seven months. Perhaps you’re already familiar with Zhang’s handiwork: On New Year’s Day 2012, Broad released a time-lapse video of its 30-story achievement that quickly went viral: construction workers buzzing around like gnats while a clock in the corner of the screen marks the time. In just 360 hours, a 328-foot-tall tower called the T30 rises from an empty site to overlook Hunan’s Xiang River.

At the end of the video, the camera spirals around the building overhead as the Broad logo appears on the screen: a lowercase b that wraps around itself in an imitation of the @ symbol.

In person, Zhang himself seems to move at an impossible time-lapse clip. He’s almost always surrounded by Broad employees, all wearing identical white button-front shirts (the uniform for the corporate office) and all offering papers for him to review or sign. When I arrive, he’s issuing a steady barrage of instructions while spinning himself around in his office chair. When he’s finally ready to start the interview, he abruptly stops spinning and, without looking at me, barks out, “Begin!”

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