We can all relate to construction projects that never seem to end. Whether you’ve driven to work through a gauntlet of orange safety barrels, or walked past a commercial building that stays wrapped in scaffolding for months (or even years), these endless construction projects are annoying eyesores. So why do construction projects fail? And what are some of the biggest failed projects of all time?
More Than Money
At first glance, it might seem like there’s only one reason why a construction project is never completed: the builders run out of money.
But digging deeper, there are underlying failures in planning, organization, and coordination that drain all resources – including money – from a build and leave it dead in the water. Some of them are:
Poor Preparation. Project managers should have meetings with stakeholders far in advance to discuss expectations on cost, time, and product quality.
Inadequate Documentation and Tracking. Proper recording and monitoring lets project managers identify where more resources are needed to complete a project on time.
Disregarding Project Warning Signs. There will always be warning signs when a project is on the verge of failing. When project managers see these signs, they must take action immediately rather than sticking their heads in the sand.
The Biggest Construction Failures Of Them All
With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at some of the biggest failed construction projects out there and the reasons they were never completed.
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Construction started: 2008
Construction stopped: 2009
This would have been the world’s tallest building. Construction started in 2008 when builders drilled the pilings, but the developers announced a year later that construction had been put on hold due to financial problems.
Location: Mumbai, India
Construction started: 2010
Construction stopped: 2011
If completed, India tower would have been a 126-story, 718-meter (2,356 ft) “supertall skyscraper.” But construction work was put on hold in 2011 due to a dispute between the tower’s developers and Mumbai’s civic authorities. The project was finally canceled in 2015.
Second Avenue Subway
Location: New York
Construction started: 1972
Construction stopped: Various dates (Phase 1 opened in 2017, but Phase 2 remains in design)
The idea for a rapid-transit line beneath New York City’s Second Avenue was first proposed in 1929. Often referred to as the line that time forgot, it has incurred a series of starts and stops for nearly a century (mostly due to low funds and construction issues, such as the delayed delivery of a tunnel-boring machine).
Today, construction is proceeding, but only a two-mile stretch and three subway stations are complete. Funding for the remainder of the more than $17-billion project is yet to be approved.
American Dream Meadowlands
Location: East Rutherford, New Jersey
Construction started: 2004
Construction stopped: Various dates
American Dream Meadowlands is a retail and entertainment complex that was supposed to open in 2017. The Mills Corporation proposed the project (then known as the Meadowlands Xanadu) in 2003 and broke ground in 2004 before going bankrupt in 2007. Colonial Capital then took over, but constructed stopped in May 2009 after the global financial firm Lehman Brothers Holdings went bankrupt and stopped making payments.
In February 2011, a heavy snowstorm damaged the idle structure, causing the buckling of a wall and a partial roof collapse, resulting in the need for additional construction. Then a lawsuit filed by the neighboring New York Giants and New York Jets over traffic concerns led to even more delays.
In July 2017, construction resumed, with new financing secured. The complex is now scheduled to open in March 2019.
Location: Pyongyang, North Korea
Construction started: 1987
Construction stopped: Various dates
The Ryugyong Hotel is an unfinished 105-story, 330-metre-tall (1,080 ft) pyramid-shaped skyscraper in Pyongyang, North Korea. Construction began in 1987 but was halted in 1992 as North Korea entered a period of economic crisis after the fall of the Soviet Union.
After 1992 the building stood “topped out” (meaning the highest structural elements were completed), but without any windows or interior fittings. In 2008 construction resumed, and the exterior was completed in 2011.
Officials planned to open the hotel in 2012. Then a partial opening was announced for 2013, but this was canceled. As of 2018 the building remains unopened and has been called the tallest unfinished building in the world.
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