2001 Thesis Paper on Shenzhen’s Swaying Skyscraper: Construction Began Before Design Was Completed

May 27, 2021 Updated: May 27, 2021

The SEG Plaza building in Shenzhen, China, experienced mysterious shaking for three consecutive days from May 18–20. The U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou issued a warning on Monday, urging U.S. citizens to stay away from the building and its surrounding area.

The 1,167-foot-high skyscraper, a landmark in Shenzhen, shook from around 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. on May 18, forcing nearly 15,000 people inside the building to evacuate. Video footage from the scene showed that when the building was shaking, objects on top that appeared to be lightning rods were shaking from side to side. The water in fish tanks and floor fans were also shaking noticeably. The building has been closed down.

Shenzhen authorities announced on May 19 that a number of professional institutions have carried out real-time monitoring of the vibration, tilt, and sinking rate of SEG Plaza, and found no safety abnormalities related to the main structure of the building and its surrounding environment. They concluded that the main structure of the building is safe. The specific cause of the vibration is under further investigation.

Design and Construction Carried Out Simultaneously

As early as 2001, an academic paper discussed the “abnormal shaking” of the SEG Plaza. The author of the paper, ‘An Analysis of the Shenzhen SEG Plaza Construction Project,’ is Jin Dianqi, who later served as the general manager of the comprehensive department of Shenzhen Urban Public Safety Technology Research Institute.

In his thesis, Jin said that he participated in the whole construction process of SEG Plaza. One of the biggest problems, he said, was that construction plans lagged behind and “as a result, construction work and design work were carried out side by side,” which continued until the building’s structural work was completed.

Jin described in the paper the most serious consequence he observed—the shaking of the antenna at the top of the building—which he attributed to starting construction before design was completed. “Antenna shaking occurred during construction,” he wrote, “Fortunately, it was a breezy day. If we encountered a strong typhoon, the consequences would be unthinkable.”

According to public information, the tower was officially opened in May 2000. There are 71 stories above ground and 4 stories below ground, with a total height of 1,167 feet and roof height of 957 feet.

Located in Huaqiangbei, a well-known electronic industry street, SEG Plaza is the tallest building in the business district. It was once the third tallest building in Shenzhen and one of the tallest concrete-filled steel tubular buildings in the world.