Vietnam tunes in to skyscraper trend

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Property developers in Vietnam are apparently locked in a race to build skyscrapers as a stronger economy allows them to pursue expensive projects with modern construction technology, experts say.

Deputy Chairman of the Vietnam Construction Federation, Pham Sy Liem, said the trend of building skyscrapers that began in the US has swept across many countries around the world.

"Developers in each country try to build record-breaking skyscrapers," he said, adding that these projects help make the country more famous.

For instance, Cambodia last week announced that it plans to construct Asia's tallest building with a US$200 million skyscraper 555 meters high.

The project is expected top the Taipei 101 Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Centre and Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Towers, which are also the world's three tallest buildings after the 828-meter Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Experts said the development of high rise buildings in Vietnam began around ten years ago, mainly in the country's two largest cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

The new trend only came out in full bloom over the past couple of years.

Nguyen Lan, former Chief Architect in Hanoi, said limited construction skills had prevented the country from latching on to this trend sooner.

Now that the economy has expanded and new construction technology can be applied, it is easier for Vietnam to build skyscrapers with growing height, he said.

PetroVietnam Construction JSC, a subsidiary of state-owned Vietnam Oil and Gas Group, announced in July that it will build the country's tallest tower in Hanoi with an investment of more than US$1 billion.

The 528-meter tower is expected to be completed by 2014.

If the plan goes ahead, the PVN Tower will surpass the 336-meter Keangnam Hanoi Landmark Tower, which has been holding the title of Vietnam's highest building since its construction started in 2007. Hanoi Landmark Tower is scheduled for completion next year.

Meanwhile, Ho Chi Minh City is going to have its own tallest building when the 262.5-meter Bitexco Financial Tower opens in October.

Liem of the Construction Federation said Vietnam is getting closer to being among the countries with the highest buildings in the world.

Local developers are competing over height as they know that a new height record will be a really good hook for their marketing campaign, Liem said. "A height advantage means developers will find it easier to attract customers, especially buyers of apartments."

Architect Lan however warned that while skyscrapers do not take over a large area of land, they can further strain public infrastructure.

Each city should consider all aspects carefully before licensing skyscraper projects, he said.

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