Towers Top Out at Record Rates


It's a tall world after all—taller than ever, in fact, with record numbers of vertiginous structures topping out in 2014 and many more ahead.

A record-breaking 97 buildings of 200 meters' height (about 656 feet) or more were completed in 2014, shattering the old one-year record of 81 set in 2011, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat reports in its new 2014 Year in Review.

The year included the completion of a record-setting 11 "supertalls" (buildings of 300 meters, or about 984 feet, or higher). More than half of the world's 85 supertalls have been completed since 2010, the council reports.

Not tall enough? The sum of the heights of all 200-meter-plus buildings completed in 2014 was 23,333 meters—smashing 2011's previous record of 19,852 meters.

The Council and its companion Tall Building Resource Center are located in Chicago at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Looking Up in Asia

Asia has been, and remains, the tall-building capital of the world, the council reports. More than three-quarters of the 97 tall buildings completed in 2014 were in Asia.

And China's dominance dwarfs the rest of the continent. That country single-handedly completed 58 tall buildings, 60 percent of the global total, with six tall projects in Tianjin alone. This is the seventh consecutive year that China led the world in tall-building completions.

Elsewhere in Asia, the Philippines completed five talls; the United Arab Emirates and Qatar each built four; and Japan finished three. Japan also topped off its first supertall building in 2014: the 300-meter Abeno Harukas tower in Osaka.

TallRegion TallFunction

Asia dominates tall construction worldwide. Office space is booming but, in some cases, it's hard to know whether that is a response or an incentive to the market, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat reports.

The United States and Canada each completed three tall buildings in 2014. At 541 meters, New York City's One World Trade Center (also known as "Freedom Tower") was the tallest building completed worldwide in 2014. The $3.9 billion structure is now the world's third-tallest building.

(The One WTC completion ends a five-year tall dry spell in the U.S., the council notes. The last U.S. tall to open was Chicago's Trump International Hotel & Tower in 2009.)

South America finished its first supertall in 2014, the only tall project completed on the continent last year.

Sunset for Steel?

The great heights are being achieved with less concrete and steel than before, the council reports.

More than half of the 2014 completions used composite construction as the primary structural system, compared with 34 percent of structures in 2013. The percentage of buildings built predominantly of concrete dropped to 38 percent in 2014, down from 61 percent the year before.


The decline in all-steel construction may be tied to the growth of mixed-use structures, the council suggests.

All-steel construction also continues to decline, accounting for only five percent of 2014's new talls and 13 percent of the world's 100 tallest buildings. Steel use for 2014 did inch up slightly from 2013's three percent.

The council ties the steel decline to the increase in mixed-use structures. Steel makes great column-free office spaces, but mixed use demands more flexibility. Indeed, the council considers the one-year uptick in steel "somewhat anomalous."

Office Power

Nearly half of 2014's new talls were all-office construction—the largest ever in that category by far, the council said. Mixed-use structures accounted for 27 percent of the talls; residential, 20 percent; and hotels, just five percent.

The super-tall 432 Park Avenue development in New York City, slated to be one of the world's tallest residential structures, is scheduled to open in 2015.

Why So High?

The council credits post-recovery confidence for the skyscraper surge.

LondonPinnacle CostaneraCenter
Raime / CC BY-SA 3.0 (left); Cristofer Daniel Ortega Urrutia / CC BY 2.0 (right)

London's maligned Pinnacle project (left), also known as "the Helter Skelter," is in for a redesign this year. South America's first supertall, Santiago's Torre Costanera (right), was completed in 2014.

Economies worldwide have been waiting to exhale since the global recession and economic crisis began in 2008, the council notes.

"[G]iven the long gestation and construction periods common to tall buildings"—some more than 28 years, it says—"we are almost certainly seeing a post-recessionary recovery."

While China's tall-building "juggernaut" will continue, rippling into smaller cities, the council cautions that the development may not be "an undiluted sign of economic health" since most of the projects are owned by governments, not the private sector.

It is impossible to tell yet whether the government is building to attract businesses or in response to demand, the council says.

The Road Ahead

The new tall records set in 2014 may already be vulnerable. This year promises to be the most active ever, the council reports.


North America's 20th-century dominance of skyscrapers has passed.

The organization projects the completion of between 105 and 130 tall buildings this year, including eight to 15 supertalls and one "megatall": the 632-meter Shanghai Tower.

Other projects to look up to this year:

  • Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: The 167-floor, 1,000-meter Kingdom Tower should reach 25 floors in 2015, putting it behind schedule for the announced 2019 completion date.
  • Dubai: The 660-meter Burj 2020 Tower may start construction this year, which would keep it on schedule.
  • London: The long-delayed 64-story Pinnacle should see a new design this year, without "the spiraling shape that Londoners called 'the Helter Skelter.'"
  • Changsha: SkyCity J220, the 220-story building that once boasted completion in seven to nine months, now shows no pulse.

Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Building design; Business matters; Concrete; Construction; Economy; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Latin America; North America; Program/Project Management; Steel

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.