Chinese Building Solution for Rapidly Urbanizing Global South

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


The global South is currently experiencing the biggest surge in urban population ever seen in human history. This transformation from urban to rural is happening in many different ways across the global South. Some countries have highly detailed plans and are building new cities from scratch, while other countries feel overwhelmed by their booming urban populations.

By 2025, it is estimated the developing world could become home to 37 megacities with more than 10 million residents ( (The Guardian). Sixty years ago there were just two megacities: New York and Tokyo. Today, there are between 21 and 23, and the UN is forecasting that by 2025 Asia will have nine new megacities. By 2025, the majority of the world’s megacities will be in the global South.

But how will these cities be built? How will they use resources well and ensure the rapidly rising new buildings are safe and healthy?

A Chinese innovator and Internet sensation has developed a way to rapidly build high-density, high-rise structures that are also safe and meet strict earthquake-proofing standards. Building upwards is an efficient way to get more use out of space and to free up land for things like parks.

Just as the first megacities such as New York began building skyscrapers a century ago, going upwards will be the solution many of the new megacities will choose as they feel the pressing twin demands of rising populations and financial restraints.

Based in Changsha, China (, the BROAD Group
( ( has become an Internet sensation for posting videos of it rapidly building skyscrapers. It does this to show off its innovative technologies, which have significantly reduced the time it takes to build high-rise buildings.

The BROAD Group calls itself “an enterprise based on the vision of unique technologies and the philosophy of preserving life.”

The company is a pioneer in making non-electric air conditioning equipment, energy systems, and sustainable building technology.

The company has come a long way since it was started in 1988 with just US $3,000. By 1995, it had shed its debts and loans. It sees its mission as confronting the two major crises facing the world today: atmospheric pollution and global warming. The company hopes to evolve into a social enterprise.

BROAD calls itself a world leader in making central air conditioning powered by natural gas and waste heat ( The company is currently exporting its systems to more than 60 countries and was an official supplier to the 2010 Shanghai Expo.

BROAD has recently been expanding its product range and moving into constructing sustainable buildings. In particular it is developing an expertise in rapid construction techniques. This is important in the modern world as cities across the global South experience population growth and the pressing need to house people and create workplaces efficiently. BROAD is proud of the 15-storey hotel in Dongting Lake in Hunan Province it built in just six days, which became a hit on YouTube ( After this achievement, BROAD constructed a 30-storey hotel in 15 days.

Part of the BROAD Group, Broad Sustainable Building (BSB) claims to make the “World’s first factory-made building.” BROAD says its buildings are sustainable because they efficiently use recycled construction materials, rely on materials free of formaldehyde, lead, radiation and asbestos and avoid “construction sewage” dust or waste.

BROAD was provoked into making sustainable buildings after the Wenchuan Earthquake in 2008 ( A year after the earthquake, 300 researchers from BROAD developed an earthquake-resistant building technology.

The factory-made building works like this: a “main board” is prepared with a floor and ceiling, ventilation, water supply and drainage, electricity and lighting. This is then placed on a truck and taken to the building site. All the workers need to do on site is assemble the building by screwing in the bolts and finishing it with the painting and other decorating. This makes the time spent assembling the building on site, according to BROAD, just 7 per cent of the total construction hours. This means 93 per cent of the building is prefabricated in a factory compared to an industry norm of 40 per cent.

BROAD’s latest project and biggest challenge is to build Sky City One ( – the world’s tallest tower at 220 floors and 838 metres – in Changsha in just 90 days. A mix of residential, commercial and retail space, it will allow between 70,000 and 120,000 people to work and live. The start date could be November 2012 and the building completed by early 2013.

The finished building will be 10 metres taller than the current tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa ( in Dubai.

Published: October 2012


1) 20th Century World Architecture: The Phaidon Atlas by The Phaidon Editors, Publisher: Phaidon. Focusing on 750 of the most outstanding works built between 1900 and 1999, the book features every imaginable building type. Website: 

2) Megacities Foundation: The Megacities initiative originates from the awareness of the future role of cities as the dominant type of settlement for humanity. Cities will play this role not just as a matter of fact but out of necessity as the only way of housing the world’s increasing population. Website: 

3) Andrew Marr’s Megacities: A BBC series exploring the rise of the megacities and what life will be like for their residents. Website: 

4) The Rise of Megacities Interactive: An online resource on the world’s rising megacities. Website:

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

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© David South Consulting 2023

By David South Consulting

David South Consulting is an international development media and consulting service. Designing human development and health. Editor and writer of Southern Innovator.



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