Wuren Wang Discusses the Importance of Understanding the Whole Lifecycle of Tall Buildings


The recipient of the 2020 CTBUH Fazlur R. Khan Lifetime Achievement Award shared insights on challenges and innovations in the construction of tall buildings.


25 May 2021


Zhendong Wang, interviews Wuren Wang during the 2021 Tall + Urban Innovation Conference.


Wuren Wang, Vice Chairman and General Manager, CITIC Heye Investment Co., Ltd., has devoted himself to the study of tall buildings over the last few decades and has no plans to stop. He was responsible for the development, construction, and operation of CITIC Tower, the tallest building in Beijing. Wang has mastered the field of construction management of large-scale projects, domestic and international investment, high-end commercial real estate, and supertall building development, and created many top achievements in China. For all this he was recognized by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) with its 2020 Fazlur R. Khan Lifetime Achievement Award.


For 41 years since graduating from university, while holding key positions on various types of domestic and international mega-projects, Wang has prioritized research and innovation. At the 2021 CTBUH Tall + Urban Innovation Conference, which took place online over the course of three days in May, Wang participated in a conversation via video with Zhendong Wang, Assistant Dean, Tongji University.


One aspect of tall building construction that is of particular interest to Wang is fire/life safety in high-rise buildings. Beyond a certain height, local municipality first responder equipment is not able to supply adequate water pressure to respond to a structure fire. Wang experienced this first-hand during the construction of the Shanghai World Financial Center, which was being built to more than 400 meters in 2007. During construction, a fire broke out at a height over 220 meters and even with three fire engines the Shanghai Fire Bureau could not adequately address the fire.


“That fire still haunts me,” Wang said, noting that in the end the construction team put the fire out with their own equipment and the damage was contained. “But the pain, the helplessness, is something I never forget.”


This experience led Wang and his team of engineers to develop the innovation of a "fire protection self-rescue system” combining temporary fire protection with permanent fire protection for a subsequent project, the CITIC Tower in Beijing, which could be used during construction and transitioned into the permanent system upon project completion. In this way, the structure does not need to rely on local authorities to ensure fire/life safety. CITIC Tower was recognized as the winner the Best Tall Building 400 meters and above category award as well as the Fire & Risk Engineering Award at the conference.


While the fire system added more than four million Yuan (US$623,000) to the project cost, the permanent protection is invaluable. Beyond the challenge of supplying water pressure at height, conventional fire protection schemes also leave a gap between construction and finalization where there is no fire protection system in place. Wang calls this period the “fire vacuum,” and fires that occur during this period can be devastating to a project.


We should consider the operating expenses together with the previous design, procurement and construction. It can obtain the highest value in the whole life cycle and the lowest consumption in the pre-life cycle.
- Wuren Wang, CITIC Heye Investment Co., Ltd.


Reflecting on his long involvement with supertall structures, Wang also discussed the challenge these projects face to deliver a project that can be competitive in its market at launch given the very long design and construction schedules, which can stretch out as long as a decade. Often some of the

technologies in the building will have been outpaced by the time the building reaches completion, a challenge for even more modest tall buildings.


“If we build a building in 10 years, it is very likely that the technology has fallen behind before the building is completed, and I am struck by this,” Wang said. This impacts different stakeholders differently. “Whether the designer, the construction company, or the supplier, 10 years is not important to them as they are implementing the contract 10 years ago. But this is different for the owner.”


While construction on CITIC Tower was underway, Wang challenged a team of designers, engineers, and logistics companies to be constantly looking for anything which had already become obsolete and work to update and change as necessary. This all had to take place under tight time and cost constraints, but Wang felt it important to do everything possible to deliver a first-in-class facility despite the long lead time.


This concern speaks to the understanding Wang has that a building once designed and built must be operated. The different parts of a building’s life cycle are one continuum, Wang says. In addition, 70 percent of the costs associated with a building are incurred during operation.


“It is not logical if you do not consider this 70 percent,” Wang says. “I think we should consider the operating expenses together with the previous design, procurement and construction. It can obtain the highest value in the whole life cycle and the lowest consumption in the pre-life cycle.”

By considering the full implications of choices made during design, construction, and operation, and by assembling a team of professionals throughout the process that have a high combined reserve of knowledge regarding all aspects of the structure, a project can ensure all parties involved win in the end.


The full conversation is archived in the Tall + Urban Innovation Conference app and is available until 19 July 2021.