The most recent accomplishment in rapid building in China is getting a lot of press coverage and internet traffic.  "30-story building built in 15 days" is a short, slick video that includes time-lapse photography of a slender, 30-story hotel being erected very quickly.  The video includes a wealth of claims about the efficiency and sustainability of the building, the safety of the construction process, and the speed.

It is a remarkable achievement, as it was designed to be.  The claims bear close scrutiny - the meaning of "20 times more purer air" is not entirely clear, for example – but the basic achievement is still impressive.  In fact, one almost suspects that the projects was designed more for the impression than anything else.

The video subtly implies that the 15 days of erection is the same thing as 15 days of construction.  Prefabricated floor sections are seen being built, shipped, and installed, but that was almost certainly not the case.   

What the editing eliminates is the foundation which must have taken a number of days if not weeks to excavate and pour, not to mention 28 days (hopefully) to cure before the video begins.  It also eliminates the prefabrication time, which was doubtless considerable.

In a way, it's a pity they left out most of the pre-fabrication process.  It may be the most interesting aspect of this project.  One of its best lessons from the project is the power of pre-fabrication

Signs of Change: China converting phone booths to WiFi hotspots

I don't know if this belongs under "internet news" or "recycling", but at the end of last year China announced plans to convert its existing network of public phone booths to WiFi hotspots. It is not certain yet, but it sounds like access will be free, putting China a long way towards achieving universal WiFi coverage.

At least, for those that can afford smartphones or laptops.

As the largest emerging economy in the world, what happens in China can be a good predictive model for the US, especially businesses with global aspirations. And this report tells us a couple of things about what's going on in China.

One of the key points in this is that public phone booth usage has dropped so low (most phones are used less than once per day) because cell phone market penetration is nearing 100%. As we are seeing in the States, even "dumb" phones provide a startling array of features, and cellular technology in Asia tends to be ahead of what we have here. This means nearly 100% of the market has access to QR readers, web apps, mobile search, text messaging, and social networking. Pew estimates 83% of American adults have cell phones; a huge and growing number. Many Americans, though, have feature-poor phones, leaving a lot of room for future adoption of more advanced mobile technologies.

The other major point underlines the realization of wireless and universal connectivity. Cloud computing and data storage is increasing, and with that comes a need for reliable, continuous connections. This is why I got upset last year when AT&T announced their reduced data plans, but then I looked carefully at my usage patterns and realized I spend the bulk of my mobile computing time connected to a WiFi network. Between home, the office, and a few local restaurants with free WiFi, less than 2% of my data transfer was over the cellular network.

That's changed. Recently I discovered the joy of streaming video on my iPhone. I catch up on a lot of news, YouTube updates, and even movies via Netflix while on the road, and for the first time ever I'm nearing my monthly data cap.

Yes, I could probably live without watching movies on my phone while waiting in line at the grocery store, but video is growing as a digital tool; just look at Qwiki. Demand for mobile video will only increase, and people will continue using larger, more complex files and programs while on the road. Eventually we will exceed the data capability of the cellular networks, and the only way to continue growing will be increasing WiFi coverage.

Re-purposing the phone booth network is a brilliant idea. I would love to see it catch on here as well.

[h/t PSFK]

Mega-Sized A/E/C Firms

AECOM has redefined what it means to be a large A/E/C consulting firm. It is now a Fortune 500 company with clients in more than 100 countries and annual revenue of $6.3 billion.  URS Corporation, a global provider of engineering, construction and technical services, has revenue of almost $9 billion.

Can building product sales and marketing techniques that work in other parts of the construction industry scale-up to deal with such behemoths?

A new white paper from SMPS Foundation, offers insight:

Supersized Competition: What You Need to Know About the Creation of A/E/C Megafirms by Alexandra S. Brown, and Scott E. Mickle, CPSM, BD & Marketing Director, LandDesign

SMPS Foundation is affiliated with the Society for Marketing Professional Services, a group focusing on marketing of design and construction. So while the report focuses on on marketing professional services, you will be able to glean tips applicable to marketing bricks and sticks.

Other recent white papers from SMPS Foudation include:
A summary of these reports, and links to previous SMPS reports, is available.

Federal Assistance for Building Product Export

Several of our clients are getting through the rough economy by expanding sales overseas, China and the Gulf States included. These programs can be helpful to novice exporters:

The Ex-Im Bank has three financing products geared especially to small and medium-sized businesses:
Working Capital Guarantees: covers 90 percent of the principal and interest on commercial lenders' working capital loans for pre-export costs.

Export Credit Insurance: protects mostly small-business exporters and their lenders against the commercial and political risks of a foreign buyer defaulting on payment.

Loan Guarantees: enables American firms to offer foreign buyers competitive credit to win a sale of equipment and services.
The Office of International Trade at the SBA has two programs to enhance the ability of small businesses to compete in the global marketplace:
Export Working Capital Loan Program (EWCP): provides short term, transaction based financing up to $2 million to assist experienced U.S. exporters to fulfill specific export contracts purchase orders, or letters of credit from overseas buyers.

Export Express: provides loans up to $250,000 to assist with working capital funds for international marketing & promotion activities and long-term financing to support an exporter's acquisition of fixed assets.
For more information, visit the Ex-Im Bank's web site at or the SBA's website at .

China's Building Products Market

Many building product manufacturers are mesmerized by China. The land of cheap manufacturing. The largest construction market. Boundless potential.

Of course, it is also a land of boundless risks. But the more you know about China, the better you can assess the opportunities and risks. Recently published, The China Greentech Report 2009 report offers insight into the nascent but growing market for environmental products in China.

One of the industry sectors covered by the report is the nascent but growing market for green buildings. The complete report can be downloaded at