Receive our newsletter - data-led analysis, original reporting and insights
Environment / Climate change

2014: The year we built 23km of skyscrapers

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) may not be as familiar as the Guinness Book of World Records. For skyscraper fans, though, it’s the source of the only records that count.

In general, the council provides resources for architecture and planning professionals. But in its spare time, it also keeps an eye on skyscraper construction around the world – and, once a year, it collects together useless yet fascinating information about them for its Year in Review. 

Here’s some of our favourite facts and commendations from this year’s release. 

The world built over 23km worth of tall buildings last year. 

The CTBUH uses 200m as the minimum height of a skyscraper, and when you stack up 2014’s 200m+ contributions, you get 23,333m worth of tower. If we do that for four years, we’ll have built enough to reach space. 

This is also the most skyscraper the world has ever built in a single year. Our previous record was in 2011 (21.6km), but progress slowed a little through 2012 and 2013 (17.6km). Of course, this is a measurement of completions, not constructions-in-progress: it’s likely the 2012-13 slowdown was a result of a lack of plans following the economic crash. This year’s figure shows things are picking up again. 

China built 60 per cent of them.

Yep. So as economists were wringing their hands about China’s slowing economy, China was building the crap out of 58 skyscrapers. Good for you, China.

Click for a larger image. 

Interestingly, Beijing and Shanghai were only responsible for two skyscrapers each – the rest were all built in other, more obscure but fast-growing, cities. Tianjin, China’s fourth largest city, built six. Chongqing, Wuxi and Wuhan all built four each. The entire US built three, the same as Hangzhou, China’s 15th largest city. 

Click for a larger image

Asia built 76 per cent of them.

Here’s last year’s builds broken down by region:

Click for a larger image.

So yeah, Asia’s doing pretty well. 

It hasn’t always been that way, though. This graphic, created by CTBUH, tells the story of the last century’s emerging economies through the locations of the tallest skyscrapers:

Click for a larger image.

Since its glory days in the 30s and 40s, North America has slipped down the charts – though it was responsible for One World Trade Center, which, at 541m, was 2014’s tallest building. Asia and the Middle East, meanwhile, have dominated in new builds since the turn of the century. 

They’re mostly offices.

Unfortunately for those of you who dream of living in the clouds, it looks like the trend in super-tall buildings is towards offices, not flats. Almost half of the completions last year were office blocks, and the number’s going up – in 2011, it was only 38 per cent, and in 2012 it was 39.

However, 26.8 per cent of last year’s crop were mixed-use buildings. Perhaps this displays a move towards cities-in-buildings: towers like this one which contain homes, shops and work, so you never need to leave. 

On that dystopian image, we’ll leave you with this graphic of 2014’s 20 tallest buildings (hover over the red dots to see information on each):

Images: CTBUH. 
This article is from the CityMetric archive: some formatting and images may not be present.