With tall buildings dominating skylines and creating a sense of wonder and pride for those who call their locations home, we wanted to explore more about the constant and continued race to the clouds. A recent infographic explored the tallest completed buildings in the U.S., but left some to wonder how the skyline looked outside of the U.S. borders.
Defining a “tall building” is harder than it seems as there is no absolute definition on what constitutes one; however, once a building reaches 328 ft (100 m), it can be called a skyscraper. At heights over 984.3 ft (300 m) it is designated “supertall” and at 1,968.5 ft (600 m) it boasts the title “megatall”. As of today, there are 129 supertalls and only three megatalls completed globally.
This article and the above infographic, which visually depicts the most up to date data, collected and grouped by CTBUH into building height ranges of +492.1 ft (150 m), +656.2 ft (200 m), and +984.3 ft (300 m), will focus on skyscrapers that extend upwards to heights at or exceeding 492.1 ft (150m).
The Clear Leader and The Distant Runner Up
With over 63% of the world’s tallest buildings, Asia leads the globe in reaching skywards. In total, Asia is home to more than 3,600 buildings that reach over 492.1 ft (150 m) in height according to the data available at the CTBUH. Of that same data, China enjoys the lion’s share of 63.6% for a total of 2,306 giants. The majority (72.3%) of China’s giants fall into the +492.1 ft (150 m) range and they have more than double (57) the number of buildings that reach upward of 984.3 ft (300 m) than any other country.
North America’s position is a distant second to Asia in terms of sheer number of tall buildings; however, it must be noted that North America is comprised of two countries; whereas, Asia is comprised of 18, making it a smaller region overall. The United States leads not only the North America region but the entire Americas region too, with 943 giants in total. Over 78% of those buildings are +492.1 ft (150 m), 19% over 656.2 ft (200 m), and the remaining make up the buildings over 984.3 ft (300 m) in height.
The Biggest of the Big
China and the U.S. are definitively ahead of other countries in the number of tall buildings that sit on their soil; however, when it comes to the tallest of the tall, it is another country that soars. There are 11 countries which are home to more than 100 buildings that reach heights of 492.1 ft (150 m) or more. Of those, the U.A.E. has the largest proportion of supertall and megatall structures with 7.2% (25) of their buildings exceeding 984.3 ft (300 m). One building in particular, the Burj Khalifa located in Dubai, reaches as astronomical height of 2,717 feet (828 m) and holds the record of the World’s Tallest Completed Building. It is 31% (643 ft / 196 m) taller than the world’s second tallest completed building, the Shanghai Tower in China. Despite the fact that the U.S. ranks second in terms of total number of tall buildings, it’s tallest completed building, One World Trade Center, currently ranks sixth in terms of height.
Tall Trends Today and Tomorrow
In 2015 China completed 62 new skyscrapers while the U.S. completed two. The following year China reached 84 newly completed; whereas, the U.S. again only completed two. Although likely to the chagrin of Donald Trump, it is no surprise that economist Tyler Cowen jokingly refers to this trend as “The Great Skyscraper Stagnation”.
There are some new predictions for future trends too. For example, Philadelphia’s Comcast Technology Center, located in a 4-season climate, is a potential indicator that the high-rise sky-garden model is moving beyond warm climates. The timber trend is taking hold too. With the TallWood House in Vancouver being completed in 2017 and the HoHo in Vienna still under construction, a Japanese company has come forward to announce plans to build the world's tallest wooden skyscraper to mark its 350th anniversary in 2041.
The distribution of behemoths across the globe is not equally balanced, and while there may not be a straightforward answer as to why, there are some clues. In a 2017 CTBUH research paper, the authors reached the conclusion that a country’s GDP was a causal factor in predicting the amount of skyscraper floor space available. Another study done by Schläpfer, Bettencourt and Lee found correlation between the size and density of cities and the height of skyscrapers.
Regardless of the reason for building a tower, and the bragging rights that come along with it, one thing is for sure: Based on the data explored here, the trends witnessed to date, and impending projects like the Jeddah Tower, it can be surmised that they will continue soaring onwards and upwards for years to come.