Only two and a half years. That's the time it takes for the Chinese company LongXin Construction Group to build a neighborhood of 35 towers, each 20-25 stories high, from the start of planning to the point of handing over the keys to the residents (approximately six months for planning and an additional two years for construction).
This is in stark contrast to the average construction time of no less than 13 years in Israel, from the initial planning stages in various committees to the key handover, according to data published at the end of 2020.
The "secret" behind the remarkable pace: The company employs about 1,200 workers at any given moment on the project site, all of whom began working on all the towers simultaneously.
In addition, it uses advanced construction technologies (which are not unique to it and are used by many construction companies around the world, including most leading Chinese real estate firms), including "prefabricated construction" - during which significant parts of the building are manufactured in advance at a factory and only assembled at the construction site.
Alongside this, the company maintains meticulous monitoring of all workers, which includes a control room with real-time cameras on all construction sites, biometric identification methods at entry points and even drones that fly around the site and capture footage of the ongoing work.
However, above all, the most significant factor speeding up such construction appears to be government support. The massive project is entirely funded by the Chinese government, with the aim of improving housing for thousands of residents in the city of Haimen, located in the Nantong province in the eastern part of the country.
The cost of the project stands at approximately 1.92 billion yuan (about $300 million), and it includes apartments ranging from two to four rooms in size from 900 to 1,5000 square feet. The average price of these apartments is estimated at about $230,000, or approximately $600 per square foot. The average construction pace in the project is less than one week per floor.
LongXin is a privately owned company, but as befits a large Chinese company, upon entering the visitors' hall of its headquarters in Haimen, you can see a large portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping, displayed alongside a row of red flags featuring the hammer and sickle symbol.
The company, first established in 1958, is engaged in construction contracting and real estate development, among other activities. It employs tens of thousands of workers worldwide, including about 800 in Israel who are working on a series of housing projects in various cities.
However, alongside the impressive construction pace of the company that is evident in China, it appears that the standards of contractors and developers in Israel regarding air pollution and safety significantly differ from those of the world's second-largest economy.
For example, at the company's sites in China, the entire site area is covered with concrete and devices that continuously spray water in order to prevent dust from dispersing. In addition, all the buildings on the site are fully covered with scaffolding on all sides, and include nets that prevent objects and even workers from falling.
However, even though the company has brought some of its stringent safety managers, along with its workers, to Israel, most construction sites across the country don't exhibit the same pace of construction, or the same level of adherence to air pollution regulations and safety standards. This discrepancy may be attributed to the cost considerations of the company and its Israeli partners, or to the strict and complex regulatory environment in Israel—a burden that the company is largely able to avoid in its projects in China and other countries.
Meanwhile, the industry is in severe crisis
However, these advanced construction methods, which are employed by other leading companies in China and sometimes enable the construction of an entire floor within just two to three days, are not resolving the housing crisis that has been affecting extensive parts of China for many months. This crisis leaves entire buildings vacant and some real estate projects with substantial losses.
For example, last week, the Chinese real estate giant Country Garden announced that it would be unable to pay the annual interest on its debt securities. This announcement led to a dramatic drop in the company's stock value and a plunge in the personal wealth of the company's chairwoman, Yang Huiyan, who until recently was the richest woman in Asia.
Huiyan is not alone. The country's real estate tycoons have seen their fortunes dwindle after the government began issuing massive loans to the sector in 2020, making it difficult for developers to refinance ballooning debts.
The ensuing liquidity crisis triggered a wave of bankruptcies, wiped out billions of dollars in investments, and delayed the construction of thousands of homes. Before the collapse, the rapid growth of China's residential real estate sector had made Huiyan and her peers some of the country’s wealthiest individuals.
It is worth noting that China is a country with a vast territory, a wide variety of populations, and accordingly, numerous real estate companies. Some of these companies are still enjoying rising prices and high demand, particularly in leading urban areas, and they continue to build at a record pace and post substantial profits.
The author is a guest of the Chinese Enterprises Association in Israel.