2015: The year we built more skyscrapers than ever before

By Barbara Speed

As you’d expect, 2015 was another bumper year of skyscraper-building. Turns out the men who build buildings (and the handful of women who are allowed to join in) were keen to make them as tall, and therefore phallic, as possible. Go figure. 

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has released some nice stats on where, and what, said men (and women) built last year. CTBUH logs the completion of all skyscrapers over 200m in height, so for the purposes of this piece the folllowing glossary applies:

  • “Skyscraper” = a building over 200m in height
  • “Supertall” = a skyscraper over 300m in height 
  • “Megatall” = a skyscraper over 600m in height 

Got that? Right, let’s go.

We finished the most skyscrapers of any year on record

In total: 106. In 2014, we finished 99; in 2013, 74.

Europe got a new tallest building

Moscow’s OKO tower, standing at 353.6m, became Europe’s tallest building. It also looks a bit like a fork chopped in half:


It beat Europe’s previous winner, Moscow’s Mercury City tower, by around 16m. In 2016, it’ll be knocked off the top spot by the as-yet uncompleted Vostok Tower, also in Moscow. Well done Moscow. Lots of tall buildings. Very manly of you. 

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The world got a new second-tallest building

The Shanghai Tower, located in, you guessed it, Shanghai, is finally done. This means it now qualifies, at 632m, as the second-tallest building in the world.

Here it is next to two other supertalls in Shanghai’s financial district: 

It’s the one on the right. The tall one. Image: Getty.

Jakarta was surpisingly prolific

Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, is frankly underrated. By some metrics it’s the largest city in the world, and it has a truly astonishing traffic problem. It was also the city which completed the most skyscrapers last year, finishing seven in total. Tied in second place were Nanjing, Nanning,and Shenzhen, all Chinese cities with five completions last year.

All of our top 100 tallest skyscrapers are now supertall

There are now 100 supertall buildings in the world. This is especially impressive when you consider that, as recently as 2010, the total stood at 50. 

North America has basically given up 

This chart shows how the location of the world’s tallest skyscrapers has shifted over the past century or so. As you can see, only a handful are now located in North America, after its dominance earlier in the century. North America only completed three skyscrapers last year. 

Europe, while never exactly a big-hitter, completed eight last year, which is actually an all-time high. 

China is the undisputed king of skyscrapers

It finished 62 skyscrapers last year. That’s more than one a week. 

The skyscraper trade has basically recovered from the recession

This chart shows the tallest building completed each year, and as you can see, there was a real lull in the post-crash years. The Burj Khalifa was completed, but it was also begun before the crash took hold. The Shanghai Tower, meanwhile, is the only megatall building that has been started and completed since the global financial meltdown. 

The CTBUH predicts that next year, 135 skyscrapers will be completed, setting another new record. Onwards and upwards, eh.


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