China ‘waterfall’ skyscraper hit by torrent of ridicule

An aerial view of a 108-meter-high (350 feet) artificial waterfall on the facade of the Liebian International Building in Guiyang in China's Guizhou province. (Reuters)
Updated 27 July 2018

China ‘waterfall’ skyscraper hit by torrent of ridicule

  • Latest building in China to draw ridicule
  • President called for end to 'weird architecture' in 2014

BEIJING: A skyscraper in southwest China that boasts what its owner calls the world’s largest man-made waterfall has become the latest example of over-the-top architecture to draw national ridicule.
The tower in the city of Guiyang was built with a spectacular 108-meter (350-feet) cascade tumbling down its face — but cash flow could prove a problem for the ostentatious design.
Although the Liebian International Building is not yet finished, the water feature was completed two years ago.
However it has only been turned on six times, with the owners blaming the high cost — 800 yuan ($120) per hour — of pumping water to the top of the 121-meter-high structure.
Constructed by the Ludi Industry Group, the building will house a shopping mall, offices and a luxury hotel.
Its signature artificial waterfall uses runoff, rainwater and groundwater collected in giant underground tanks.
The company said the feature pays homage to the local region’s rugged nature, but Chinese netizens have mocked the project as a waste of money.
“If they could just turn it on once every few months, the company would save on cleaning windows,” one user wrote on China’s Twitter-like social network Weibo.
China’s rapid economic growth has been accompanied by a construction boom, often including outlandish buildings that are criticized as a waste of public or shareholder funds.
The Beijing headquarters of state broadcaster China Central Television features a futuristic design now nicknamed “The Big Underpants” due to its resemblance to a giant pelvis.
Web users also noted last year a building on the campus of a water-resources university gained notoriety for resembling a toilet.
The issue prompted President Xi Jinping in 2014 to call for an end to what he called “weird architecture.”


Electric luxury vehicles, SUVs ‘more likely to cause accidents’

Updated 23 August 2019

Electric luxury vehicles, SUVs ‘more likely to cause accidents’

  • As EV sales rise, French insurer AXA warns that drivers are struggling to adapt to cars’ rapid acceleration

LONDON: Electric luxury cars and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) may be 40 percent more likely to cause accidents than their standard engine counterparts, possibly because drivers are still getting used to their quick acceleration, French insurer AXA said.

The numbers, based on initial trends from claims data and not statistically significant, also suggest small and micro electric cars are slightly less likely to cause accidents than their combustion engine counterparts, AXA said at a crash test demonstration on Thursday.

AXA regularly carries out crash tests for vehicles. This year’s tests, which took place at a disused airport, focused on electric cars.

Overall accident rates for electric vehicles are about the same as for regular cars, according to liability insurance claims data for “7,000 year risks” — on 1,000 autos on the road for seven years — said Bettina Zahnd, head of accident research and prevention at AXA Switzerland.

“We saw that in the micro and small-car classes slightly fewer accidents are caused by electric autos. If you look at the luxury and SUV classes, however, we see 40 percent more accidents with electric vehicles,” Zahnd said.

“We, of course, have thought about what causes this and acceleration is certainly a topic.”

Electric cars accelerate not only quickly, but also equally strongly no matter how high the revolutions per minute, which means drivers can find themselves going faster than they intended.

FASTFACT

Accident rates among luxury and SUV electric vehicles are 40 percent higher than for their combustion engine counterparts.

Half of electric car drivers in a survey this year by AXA had to adjust their driving to reflect the new acceleration and braking characteristics.

“Maximum acceleration is available immediately, while it takes a moment for internal combustion engines with even strong horsepower to reach maximum acceleration. That places new demands on drivers,” Zahnd said.

Sales of electric cars are on the rise as charging infrastructure improves and prices come down.

Electric vehicles accounted for less than 1 percent of cars on the road in Switzerland and Germany last year, but made up 1.8 percent of Swiss new car sales, or 6.6 percent including hybrids, AXA said.

Accidents with electric cars are just about as dangerous for people inside as with standard vehicles, AXA said. The cars are subject to the same tests and have the same passive safety features such as airbags and seatbelts.

But another AXA survey showed most people do not know how to react if they come across an electric vehicle crash scene.

While most factors are the same — securing the scene, alerting rescue teams and providing first aid — it said helpers should also try to ensure the electric motor is turned off. This is particularly important because unlike an internal combustion engine the motor makes no noise. In serious crashes, electric autos’ high-voltage power plants automatically shut down, AXA noted, but damaged batteries can catch fire up to 48 hours after a crash, making it more difficult to deal with the aftermath of
an accident.

For one head-on crash test on Thursday, AXA teams removed an electric car’s batteries to reduce the risk of them catching fire, which could create intense heat and toxic fumes.

Zahnd said that studies in Europe had not replicated US findings that silent electric vehicles are as much as two-thirds more likely to cause accidents with pedestrians or cyclists.

She said the jury was still out on how crash data would affect the cost of insuring electric versus standard vehicles, noting this always reflected factors around both driver and car.

“If I look around Switzerland, there are lots of insurers that even give discounts for electric autos because one would like to promote electric cars,” she said.