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Tower may not be tall order

Tower may not be tall order


INDUSTRY experts from around the world said yesterday that a proposed 555-metre tower on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich was technically possible, but raised questions about the economics of the plan.

Dennis Poon of Thornton Tomasetti, the company behind some of the highest buildings in the world, including Taipei 101, said the project was possible with the right team and materials to contain costs and avoid problems down the track.

Key considerations for Poon were the choice of materials and necessity for cooperation between structural engineers, architects and the owner.

Having built at least eight 100-plus-storey buildings, he emphasised that local conditions were key to any design.

“According to my experience, each project of this type must be designed specifically to fit the local site conditions, its local construction constraints, soil conditions, materials availability and the country’s culture.”

The proposed location of the tower, Diamond Island, was also discussed by engineers contacted by the Post.

Rainer Israel, director of Cambodian engineering firm iLi Consulting Engineers Mekong, said that the proposal was ambitious, but not impossible, despite Cambodia’s less-developed construction sector.

“You will certainly not be able to do it with Cambodian resources only, but that’s not unusual. Even Dubai [which built the world’s tallest building] had to import materials,” he said yesterday.

“It’s quite normal to have foreign contractors, designers etc.”

He said that if the site was to be Diamond Island, developers would need to be mindful that the isle was not stable, having formed less than 100 years ago.

“The Mekong keeps reshaping. In the long run, the island sure wouldn’t stay an island,” he said.

“You would have to protect it – which is possible. If you had a high value of property on it then it makes sense to protect it from erosion,” he said. The road infrastructure would also need serious consideration, he said.

However, he felt that a more interesting question related to its economic viability.

“This question [of economic feasability] is not the business we are in, but I think the more interesting question here is will you have a market for it? Where are the tenants? How would you even fill a place like that, given all the other places we still haven’t filled?”

Yim Sovan, spokesman for the opposition Sam Raisey Party, posed similar questions, voicing concern about building such a tower when the capital’s current high-rises were plagued with vacancies.

He said it was more economically important for the government to develop the agriculture sector, education and healthcare.

Nick Owen, Shanghai-based Asia editor for the Economist Intelligence Unit, raised his own questions about financing such an enormous
endeavour.

“I haven’t seen details of the project, but I’m slightly surprised by the amount [US$200 million for stage one] because the construction industry in Cambodia and indeed globally has faced increasing challenges in securing financing for these projects,” he said yesterday.

“Investors have been looking much more carefully before committing capital to these sort of projects.”

But local businessmen and interested domestic parties welcomed the idea. Sung Bonna, president and CEO of Bonna Realty Group, said yesterday that the plan was “a good sign”, and that he hoped that construction on the building would start soon.

Ching Chhom Mony, dean of architecture at the Royal University of Fine Art, said that building on site would have “no problems” as a result of advances in both science and technology.

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