‘Vanity projects’: China to introduce tighter limits on skyscrapers

China has said it will restrict smaller cities from building “super skyscrapers”, as a part of a broader crackdown on “vanity projects” and to reduce energy consumption.

Skyscrapers taller than 150 metres will be “strictly” limited, and those higher than 250 metres will be banned for cities with a population of fewer than 3 million.

The authorities will also limit structures taller than 250 meres for cities with more than 3 million people.

This is not the first time Chinese regulators have stepped in to limit the height of skyscrapers. In July, China’s National Development and Reform Commission banned new skyscrapers taller than 500 metres and restricted those taller than 250 metres.

The regulator also tightened the rules for buildings taller than 100 metres. They included requirements for the towers’ anti-earthquake capability, and whether they could match the fire and rescue capability in the cities they are located.

The latest statement was jointly issued this week by China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and Ministry of Emergency Management, a cabinet-level executive department responsible for emergency management and work safety.

China is home to some of the world’s mega towers. The 128-storey, 632-metre-tall Shanghai Tower, for example, is the world’s second-tallest building. And for years the fast-developing country has been an experiment for ambitious international architects such as the late Zaha Hadid.

But the authorities have in recent years found it increasingly difficult to manage these buildings. Reports of potential health and safety incidents in these skyscrapers often appear in state media and on social media.

In May, a near-300-metre (980ft) building in southern Shenzhen began mysteriously shaking, prompting an evacuation of people inside while pedestrians looked on in horror. It was later found to have been caused by a combination of winds, underground rail lines and fluctuating temperatures.

In recent years, regulators have openly criticised some of the bold designs, calling them “vanity projects” that would only encourage Chinese cities to compete with each other in the wrong way. Earlier this year, Beijing issued a ban on “ugly architecture”.

According to the Global Times, regulators last year issued a document clarifying how to further strengthen the management of architecture in Chinese cities. They concluded that large buildings that had a strange style were “a waste of resources”.

Architecture websites such as archcy.com encourage citizens to spot curious designs around the country and vote for a “hall of shame” listing of China’s top 10 “ugliest” buildings.

The organiser of the competition said the purpose of the vote was to “provoke thinking about the beauty of and ugliness of architecture and promote architects’ social responsibility”.