A Year in Review: Trends of 2011
Skyscraper Completion Reaches New High for Fifth Year Running

Antony Wood, Executive Director, and Nathaniel Hollister, Production Coordinator, CTBUH

 Tall building construction
In January of each year, CTBUH publishes a review of tall building construction and statistics from the previous year. The annual story is becoming a familiar one: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and now 2011 have each sequentially broke the record for the most 200 meter or higher buildings completed in a given year. Once again, more 200 m+ buildings were completed in 2011 than in any previous year, with a total of 88 projects opening their doors (for an overview of all 200 m+ buildings, see the “Tall Buildings in Numbers” study). Shenzhen's Kingkey 100, at 442 meters, tops the 2011 list.

Looking to the future, it is now foreseeable – indeed likely – that the recent trend of an annual increase in building completions will continue for the next several years, perhaps even through the end of the decade. This represents a change in recent predictions. It had been expected that skyscrapers completions would drop off very sharply after 2011, as a result of the 2008 global financial crisis and the large number of projects put on hold. Now however, due to large part to the continuing high activity of skyscraper design and construction in China, as well as the development of several relatively new markets, this global dip is no longer expected. The effect this will have on the skylines of the world will be tremendous (see “The Tallest 20 in 2020” article for more on the future of the skyscraper).

Continuing Shifts

 Capital City Moscow Tower
 sky garden
 Marina the tallest residential skyscraper
 tall building market
Etihad Towers
The buildings completed in 2011, have affected a significant change in the world's tallest 100 buildings, with 17 new buildings added to the list. This change continues the trends of recent years (see Figures 2–5). Perhaps most significantly, for the first time in history the number of office buildings in the tallest 100 has diminished to the 50% mark, as mixed-use buildings continue to increase, jumping from 23 to 31. As recently as the year 2000, 85% of the world's tallest were office buildings – meaning that a 35% change has occurred in just over a decade. In terms of location, Asia, now with 46 of the 100, continues to edge toward containing half of the world's tallest buildings. The Middle East region saw an increase of three, while Europe diminished to only one building in the tallest 100: Capital City Moscow Tower.

Dominant and Emerging Markets

It is interesting to examine where the predicted continued increase in tall building activity will take place. Will the already-remarkable Chinese market continue to expand exponentially and further dominate the skyscraper typology? Will the once-dominant North American market see a resurgence? Or are there other, unrealized markets that are yet to discover the benefits of building tall? Given the tremendous skyscraper activity taking place in countries such as China, it is easy to miss the smaller markets where, nonetheless, significant tall construction is happening.

The eighty-eight 200 m+ projects completed in 2011 (the tallest 20 of which are profiled in Figure 1) provide a helpful insight into where this expected increase in international building development will take place. On the one hand, statistics show that several of the major markets in recent years continue to thrive – and drive a significant percentage of the tall building market. China and the UAE contain a total of 39 of the projects – over 44% of the world's completions in 2011. However, several cities, not previously seen as centers of tall building construction, are quite evident in this group of projects. In fact, the three cities to complete the most 200 m+ buildings in 2011 are all relatively newcomers to the list: Panama City (10 completions), Abu Dhabi (9 completions), and Busan (9 completions). Before 2011, these cities had a combined total of six 200 m+ buildings. Together, they now contain 34 such buildings and accounted for 32% of completions in 2011, surpassing traditional tall building centers such as Dubai, Shanghai, and Singapore.


When discussing skyscrapers completion, it is impossible to neglect the market of China, which contributed 23 completions in 2011. However, quite surprisingly given the region's impressive market, we have seen China's global percentage of building completions begin to drop off slightly. In 2009, China contained 45% of the buildings completed and 33% in 2010. In 2011, China contained only 26% of the global total of 200 m+ completions. This decreasing figure demonstrates that, despite the continued increase in building construction in China and relatively tame historical markets, other new markets are immerging.

Shenzhen's Kingkey 100, at 442 meters (1,449 feet), was the tallest to complete in 2011, opening in December. The 100-story building is topped by a 38-meter (125-foot) sky garden which serves as the lobby of the building's hotel and contains three levels of restaurants/bars. Also completed in 2011 was the Longxi International Hotel, located near the Chinese village of Huaxi. The village, rumored to be the richest in China, sees the building as a mark of their economic development over the past half-century with its height symbolically matching (within two meters) the height of the tallest building in Beijing, the capital of China.


Another significant existing market is the city of Dubai, which added six 200 m+ buildings in 2011. It is helpful to recall that, just a decade ago, the entire UAE contained a total of only three 200 m+ buildings. It now contains 60 such buildings, behind only China and the USA. Within ten years, the country has established itself as a center of tall building construction, and has completed more 200 m+ buildings than any other country except China in the past two years.

In 2011, Dubai's 23 Marina became the world's tallest residential building, at 393 meters (1,289 feet). Coincidentally, the building sits near both The Torch (the previous world's tallest residential for a short time) and the under construction Princess Tower (set to become the world's tallest in 2012), making the Dubai Marina the tallest residential skyscraper cluster in the world.


Before 2008, no 200 m+ buildings existed in all of Panama. Then, between 2008 and 2010, three buildings opened. In 2011, Panama City completed ten 200 m+ skyscrapers, more than any other city and more than double the number of completions in all of North America. With these completions, there are now 12 such buildings in Panama, perhaps signaling a new day for the tall building in this region.

One of these buildings, the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower, became the tallest building in Central America when it completed in 2011 at 284 meters (932 feet) in height. Additionally, there are another eight buildings currently under construction and set for completion by the end of 2012, an impressive figure for a country of only 3.5 million inhabitants. While these numbers are easily dwarfed by the immense number of completions in China or other major tall building markets, they point to an immerging tall building market. Panama is not the only emerging market in this region but also Mexico that also completed its third 200 m+ building in 2011 and currently has three other significant tall building projects under construction.

Abu Dhabi

Another emerging market in 2011 was Abu Dhabi, Dubai's neighbor which added nine 200 m+ buildings remarkable as it contained only two such buildings at the beginning of the year. Another thirteen 200 m+ buildings are currently under construction in Abu Dhabi, showing that the city will continue to be an important market for the next several years.

Abu Dhabi's largest project to complete in 2011 was Etihad Towers, a complex comprised five towers ranging between 218 meters to 305 meters. The complex provides a significant amount of residential, office, and hotel space to the city. The tallest of the towers, Etihad Towers 2, became the city's tallest building and first supertall.


The Korean tall building market has also seen significant development in recent years, containing twenty-four 200 m+ buildings by the end of 2010. However, only one such building existed in the country's second largest city, Busan. 2011 saw all this change with 9 of the 11 Korean completions taking place in Busan. This included the completion of the Doosan Haeundae We've the Zenith Tower complex and Studio Daniel Libeskind's Haeundae I'Park complex. These two projects, which sit directly next to each other, added five 250-meter (820-foot) residential buildings to Busan.

2011 also saw the completion of Korea's tallest building, the Northeast Asia Trade Tower. The building is located in Incheon which became Korea's first free economic zone in 2003, has seen significant tall buildings development.

United States and Europe

 Great American Tower
New York’s Eight Spruce Street and Cincinnati’s Great American Tower
What role do developed regions, like the United States and Europe, play in the future of the tall building? Are these markets expanding or expended? Historically speaking, the United States experienced its skyscraper “heyday” in the 1980s, when forty-nine 200 m+ buildings were completed. To put this in perspective, during the same decade China and South Korea each completed only two such buildings, while Europe and the UAE completed none. This building boom continued into the early 90s, until it ended in 1994, after which the US did not complete any 200 meter buildings for a full five years. In 2011, two 200 m+ buildings were completed in the US: New York's Eight Spruce Street and Cincinnati's Great American Tower. Eight Spruce Street, recipient of the CTBUH 2011 Best Tall Building Americas Award, uses its façade to create a draping fabric-like quality, a unique addition to the city's skyline.

Europe, another significantly developed tall building market, completed four 200 m+ buildings in 2011, matching its record set in 2008. These buildings, spread through the UK, France, Germany, and Russia, seem to point to a possible resurgence of the tall building in continental Europe. There are currently 20 such buildings under construction in Europe, with some ten set to complete in the next two years.

France's Tour First building, completed in 2011, took a 40-story building completed in the 1970s and completely refurbished it. The project retains the integrity of the original tower while providing a modern interpretation of the concept and vastly improving the environmental performance, internal conditions, and circulation. With the addition of ten floors, the project became France's tallest building at 231 meters (758 feet). This reuse and reinvigoration of an existing building can be seen as a model for what is likely to become a common event around the world. As buildings age and become in danger of becoming obsolete, significant renovations can be more effective than complete demolition.


Having examined the history and status of a variety of tall building markets, several assumptions can be made about the next decade of tall buildings construction. Existing skyscraper markets, particularly China and the Middle East, are predicted to continue to play a major role in the tall building industry. China currently has over 180 projects under construction that are over 200 meters in height, and thus will undoubtedly play the primary role in tall building development for the rest of this decade. However, the tall building typology continues to diversify, and we can expect to see the further development of a number of new markets over the next few years. Cities like Panama City, Abu Dhabi, Busan, and many others in Central and South America, Asia, and the Middle East will continue to play an increasing role in tall building development.

 France’s Tour First building
France’s Tour First building

With over 300 projects above the 200-meter mark currently under construction internationally, the tall building community is set to continue to develop at an incredible pace. As new markets continue to discover and develop the tall building, it is quite possible that this pace will continue through the end of this decade. Without a doubt, the skylines of the world will see tremendous change by the year 2020.
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