If China can build a skyscraper in 19 days, why can't the United States do that as well?
Matthew Lohden, 30+ years working in the design and construction of buildings.
A US company once built a house in 8 hours.
US teams could build a skyscraper in the same fashion as the Chinese one given good enough reason. The reality though is that the building wasn't built in that time. It was only erected. There is also all the time spent preparing and assembling all the components so that the erection could be so quick. There are certainly advantages to modular construction but there are also trade offs which make it unsuitable in many cases and of limited use in others.
The Chinese are still developing their infrastructure and it makes sense to explore ways to do it faster and with economies of scale. In the US our problems are more about repairing, updating, and reorganizing an otherwise pretty fully developed built environment. The applications for such full on modularization are much more limited here.
Jerry To, lives in Hong Kong
The US COULD do that, if they invest into the prefab technologies and manufacturing facilities as much as the company behind this skyscraper did.
The US just didn't do it, because there's no need to erect skyscrapers in 19 days.
In fact, China didn't need to erect skyscrapers in 19 days either. The vast majority of China's buildings were not completed this way.
Even for this particular project, they still didn't HAVE to complete it in 19 days. I'm sure they can save a bit more construction cost by having a more relaxed schedule.
Then why did they do it? Because if they took their time and spent a couple months building this, you most likely would not have heard about it from WSJ (although the speed would still be impressive).
The company, Broad Sustainable Building (BSB), did this as a public stunt to promote what they called "sustainable building technologies". They were also behind several other "rush construction" projects such as a 30-floor hotel in 15 days and a 15-floor hotel in less than a week. Their goal was to eventually build a 200+ stories super-skyscraper using similar technologies. That thing, if built, will be slightly taller than the Burj Khalifa.
It's also worth noting that, although construction speed was the single most eye-grabbing element in news like these, it was not BSB's main selling point. Like I've mentioned earlier, people rarely NEED to have skyscrapers built in a few weeks, not even in China. BSB's main selling point was actually energy conservation, emission reduction, superior interior air quality, and reducing building cost.
Benjamin Okopnik, Endlessly curious polymath
I agree with much of what has been written, but I also note a certain attitude in some of the answers that's worth addressing: some people seem to be trying to justify, rather than simply compare. And that adds a nasty little edge to the discussion that doesn't really need to be there.
If someone in the the US had done this, we'd be trumpeting it all over the world, and damn well strutting with pride. That's what we did with the Empire State building, and to some degree with all our major achievements. "We did it; we are #1." Rightly so, because the winner deserves the pride of achievement - and knocking that is mighty small of anyone who chooses to do so. China is to be congratulated on having done this, and there are lessons to be learned from it - even if it doesn't need to be exactly emulated.