Record number of high-rises completed last year; more expected
this year.

Image courtesy CTBUH

Click on the slide show button to learn more about the 10 tallest towers completed last year.

History keeps disproving predictions that the supertall skyscraper, as a developer’s building type, was destroyed when the two 110-story towers of New York City’s World Trade Center went down. Last year alone, 66 towers taller than 200 meters opened their doors, breaking the 2007 record of 48. Of these, eight are taller than 300 m, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, which is the keeper of the tall-building flame. CTBUH predicts 97 more 200-m-plus high-rises will have ribbon-cuttings next year, including more than 20 taller than 300 m, which the group dubs “supertalls.”

“Immediately following the events of 9/11, many believed we had seen the end of tall buildings as a viable proposition for our cities moving forward,” says Antony Wood, executive director of the Chicago-based CTBUH. “But the unprecedented international boom in high-rise buildings since then shows that the predictions were starkly wrong.”

Stacked one atop the other, the 66 tallest high-rises completed last year would stretch up 16.8 kilometers, or 10.5 miles. The collective height was pumped up by the opening last January of the “supertallest,” the 828-m Burj Khalifa.

CTBUH is celebrating the accomplishments of last year by declaring 2010 the “most successful year of skyscraper completion in history.” But all is not 100% rosy for tall-building construction, thanks to the global recession. With projects on hold or abandoned, last year was still not as strong as originally anticipated by CTBUH.

“Though skyscraper completion in 2011 and 2012 will likely continue the upward trend, we are almost certainly going to see a dip in the global numbers in the immediate two to three years after that,” predicts Wood.

Though CTBUH expects 97 high-rises to open their doors this year, the group’s tall- building database lists 2011 completion dates for 114 buildings taller than 200 m. These buildings would stack up to 24.9 km, or 15.4 miles.

On that list, the tallest building scheduled to be completed this year is the 601-m Makkah Royal Clock Tower in Saudi Arabia. The next four are the 414-m Princess Tower in Dubai, the 413-m Al Hamra Firdous Tower in Kuwait City, the 389-m 23 Marina project in Dubai and the twin, 376-m Emirates Park Towers Hotel & Spa in Dubai. All of the buildings have reinforced-concrete frames except for the Makkah Royal Clock Tower, which uses both steel and concrete.

As far as construction goes, most of the tall-building activity is in Asia and the Middle East. Mumbai can claim the tallest building under construction: the 720-m India Tower. The listed year for completion of the mixed-use building is 2016. Number two in planned height is the 632-m Shanghai Tower, also a mixed-used building and listed as having a 2014 completion year. CTBUH gives a 600-m minimum height for Shenzen, China’s Ping An International Financial Center Tower One, listed as reaching completion in 2015. But the structural designer for Ping An, New York City-based Thornton Tomasetti, reports it will rise to 660 m.

CTBUH lists 19 stalled buildings at 300 m or taller. The 551-m Doha Convention Center and Tower has the dubious distinction of being the tallest supertower on hold.

China tops the 2010-completed list, with 32%, or 21 of the 66. Three of these are among the five tallest that were finished last year. Eighty-five percent of the completed high-rises are in Asia and the Middle East. Of the eight supertalls completed, only one is outside of China and the United Arab Emirates: Capital City Moscow Tower. The eight newest supertalls bring the total to 50, says the council.

Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel Makkah, Saudi Arabia 601 95 Steel and concrete Hotel
Princess Tower Dubai, U.A.E. 414 101 Concrete Residential
Al Hamra Firdous Tower Kuwait City 413 77 Concrete Office
23 Marina Dubai 389 90 Concrete Residential
Emirates Park Towers Hotel & Spa One Dubai 376 77 Concrete Residential/hotel
Emirates Park Towers Hotel & Spa Two Dubai 376 77 Concrete Residential/hotel
Source: Council on tall buildings and urban habitat

As a nation, the U.A.E. saw 14 tall buildings, of the 66, completed last year. Dubai took the top spot for the most 200-m-plus buildings completed in a single city, with 11.

The U.S. continues to decline in skyscraper construction, accounting for only 9% of buildings completed in 2010, compared to 21% in 2009, says CTBUH. The U.S. also barely breaks into the tallest-20 completed list of last year, with only the 249-m Legacy at Millennium Park, Chicago, at No. 19. This is in stark contrast to the list of the tallest buildings completed in 2009. At that time, U.S. buildings took the first-, third- and fifth-tallest slots, with the 423-m Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, the 366-m Bank of America Tower in New York City and the 262-m Aqua in Chicago.

The nine tallest on the 2010-completed list, after the Burj Khalifa, are the 484-m International Commerce Center in Hong Kong; the 450-m Nanjing Greenland Financial Center in Nanjing, China; the 438-m Guangzhou International Finance Center in Guangzhou, China; the 326-m Index in Dubai; the 318-m HHHR Tower in Dubai; the 310-m Ocean Heights in Dubai; the 302-m Capital City Moscow Tower; the 292-m Sky Tower in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.; and the 288-m Excellence Century Plaza Tower One in Shenzhen.

CTBUH has been gathering data on tall buildings since its inception in 1969. But it only went “live” with an online interactive database about a year ago. Visitors to the Tall Buildings Database site, hungry for tall-building trivia, can feed themselves on data in all shapes and forms from the more than 10,000 tall buildings stored in the database.

There are nine “canned” lists at a visitor’s fingertips, including the 100 tallest, 100 future tallest, 100 tallest under construction and 100 tallest proposed. The prepared lists also include the 100 tallest residential buildings, office buildings and hotels. Finally, there are lists of the tallest demolished buildings and the 50 tallest buildings.

Missing a list format? Create your own. A visitor can even assemble a list of all the tall buildings in the world.

The council has grown apace over the last decade, mirroring the tall-buildings boom. In the coming months, the group, which in 2004 moved its headquarters from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., to the Illinois Institute of Technology, plans to add two full-time positions to its staff of eight. One position is for a research and working-groups manager, who will start a research division; the other is for an operations manager. CTBUH currently is gathering applications and expects to start interviews next month.

With so much tall-building activity, it has become clear that high-rises are not seen as relics of the past. On the contrary, many see them as symbols of the future. “In reality, 9/11 may ultimately have had a positive influence on this resurgence of tall buildings, since the event projected the building type into the minds and [consciousness] of virtually everyone around the world in a way that no other single event has,” says CTBUH’s Wood.