World skyscraper construction hits all-time high

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CNN  — 

More skyscrapers were built in 2017 than during any other year in history, according to data released today by the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH).

A total of 144 buildings measuring 200 meters (656 feet) or taller were completed in the world this year, up on 2016’s record by more than 13%. China once again dominates the list, which was published in an annual report by the CTBUH. The country accounts for more than half of this year’s global total, with 77 of the structures located in 36 different Chinese cities.

Of them, the southern metropolis of Shenzhen was responsible for the highest number of new skyscrapers. Topping the CTBUH’s list for the second consecutive year, the city saw the completion of 12 such buildings in 2017 – more than the entire United States. Shenzhen is also home to this year’s biggest new skyscraper, the 1,966-foot (599-meter) Ping An Finance Center, now the fourth tallest building in the world.

The city of Nanning, in China’s Guangxi province, was ranked second, having completed seven new tall structures, while Chengdu tied with Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, on five. The Chinese cities of Changsha and Wuhan were joined by New York, Toronto, South Korea’s Busan and the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, with four each.

But while the global trend is headed skywards, the market for high-rises is changing, according to Shawn Ursini, editor of the CTBUH’s Skyscraper Center database.

“Residential is taking up an increasingly big share of buildings measuring at least 200 meters in height,” he said in a phone interview. “If you go back to the latter end of the 20th century, you could almost assume that any building of that magnitude would be an office building.

“But that’s not necessarily the case anymore. Residential buildings, while not a majority, are continuing to climb. And mixed-use is increasingly becoming very common – especially among ‘supertall’ buildings (those rising to 300 meters or above).”

Of this year’s 10 tallest new structures, five have provisions for residential use, including Dubai’s 1,394-foot (425-meter) Marina 101.

Dubai's 1,394-foot Marina 101 growing number of skyscrapers being primarily developed for residential purposes.

A global phenomenon

Despite China’s dominance in skyscraper construction, the CTBUH report says that 2017 was the most geographically diverse year to date. A total of 23 countries were represented in the list, with places like Sri Lanka and Kenya completing buildings over 200 meters tall for the first time.

From Istanbul to Calgary, cities around the world finished their own largest buildings. Seoul’s Lotte World Tower became South Korea’s tallest structure and the fifth tallest in the world, while the Wilshire Center in Los Angeles is now California’s loftiest building and the tenth tallest in the US.

Globally, 2017 marks the fourth consecutive year that the world’s record total has been surpassed. A steady post-recession trajectory has seen the number of new skyscrapers more than double since 2012, when just 69 were completed.

Seoul's Lotte World Tower is now South Korea's tallest structure and the fifth tallest in the world.

Tall buildings continue to “make economic sense,” said Ursini, who predicts that 2018 could see anything from 130 to 160 new completions. But what happens next year may depend hugely on conditions in China.

“There has been a lot of Chinese money funding skyscraper construction in other countries,” Ursini said. “So factors like (China’s economy) could determine the outcome of a number of projects, and not just in China.

“We’ve seen a number of buildings that were initially anticipated for completion in 2017 being rolled back into 2018. That may or may not be directly related to the economic cooling-off in China, but there was a bit of a noticeable trend. There are many factors that delay a project, but that’s potentially one of them.”