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The global skyscraper trend

April 2016

The recent completion of Shanghai Tower in China is testament to a global skyscraper trend which sees new supertall building shooting up the sky around the world.

The cityscapes of the world’s metropolises have changed significantly since the first supertall tower was constructed in New York City in 1930. With a height of 318.9 metres, the topping out of the Chrysler building 86 years ago marked the beginning of a trend which saw new skyscrapers being built all over the world.

While the Chrysler Building was built of steel exclusively for office use, the functionality of today’s skyscrapers has diversified with many of them accommodating residential units and hotels, the most famous example of which is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world.

According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), as of June 2015 there were 91 supertall (over 300 metres) and 2 megatall (over 600 metres) buildings fully completed and occupied globally.

But which factors are driving the development of the global ‘skyscraper trend’?

“In a lot of ways, the recent influx of skyscrapers has come as a result of unprecedented levels of urban development and population growth in certain parts of the world,” says Jason Gabel, the CTBUH’s Communications Manager. “UN data from 2014 stated that that world’s urban population is growing by a million new urban inhabitants every week. China in particular has experienced rapid rural-to-urban migration, and has responded to a need for increased density by building a host of skyscrapers at breakneck speed. Couple this with the fact that China’s economy has been historically tied to ongoing construction activities, and you start to see why the region is turning to this architectural typology to address its needs,” Gabel explains.

For the tallest of the tallest skyscrapers however, building motives go beyond simply providing more condensed space, as Gabel adds: “Supertall (300-meter-plus) and megatall (600-meter-plus) buildings have additional drivers. These towers are often employed as much more than just sources of additional office and residential space, but rather as icons that are definitive components of their cities. In a way, these buildings send a strong message to the rest of the world as symbols of prosperity and value.”

China’s new icon

In November last year, global architecture firm Gensler has completed its Shanghai Tower, which is now China’s tallest building and the second-tallest building in the world. According to the CTBUH’s measuring criteria, the Shanghai Tower falls in the megatall category of which there are now only three in the world.

Located in the burgeoning Lujiazui financial district, the 632-metre-high skyscraper is the Shanghai skyline’s most prominent icon. According to Gensler, the tower’s transparent, spiral form showcases cutting-edge sustainable strategies and public spaces that set new standards for green community.

Within 121 stories, Shanghai Tower houses Class A office space, entertainment venues, retail, a conference center, a luxury hotel and cultural amenity spaces, all with sustainable design being at the core of its development. “A central aspect of the design is the transparent second skin that insulates the building, reducing energy use for heating and cooling,” says Gensler. Furthermore, Gensler’s design leverages state-of-the-art water conservation practices, high-efficiency building systems and its own power generation system for parts of the tower.

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