The Real Deal New York

Why is the U.S. losing the skyscraper race?

Only 20 percent of the world’s tall buildings are in North America today

February 22, 2015 01:00PM

The Burj Khalifa

The Burj Khalifa

There is no shortage of skyscrapers in New York City, but compared with the rest of the world, fewer super tall towers are being built in the U.S.

Twenty-five years ago, 80 percent of the world’s tallest buildings were in North America. Now, that number has dropped to just 20 percent, according to CNBC.

And of all the skyscrapers completed in 2014, North America had only four in the top 20 — One World Trade Center topped that list. Still, the majority of tall buildings went up in the Eastern Hemisphere.

“If you predicted the world’s tallest building 30 years ago,” Antony Wood, executive director of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, told CNBC, “you’d have said three things with certainty: You’d have said number one, it’ll be in North America; number two, it will be an office building; and number three, it’ll be built out of steel. Now the exact opposite is true. It’ll probably be in Asia or the Middle East. It’ll be residential or mixed-use, and it’ll probably be concrete construction.”

Wood believes that the reason the tall-building boom has moved across the globe is due to the changes in world economics and demographics. In other words, countries like China simply have a greater demand. The bragging rights are just gravy.

“It’s not the case that America is no longer building tall buildings,” Wood said. “It’s just that the agenda for that quest for the title of the world’s tallest has moved on to cities and countries who believe that that’s what they need to put their city on the map … Cities are using skyscrapers to brand themselves as a developed city in the same way that corporate companies in America used skyscrapers to brand their corporation 30, 40, 50 years ago.” [CNBC]Christopher Cameron

  • Lordyuyu

    i prefer buildings to make economical sense so that cities and companies can keep adding further skyscrapers and not go bankrupt or be burdened with economic loss in the process

  • DR.FUNK

    What’s the point of tall buildings with no tenants?

  • Tim

    They dont make economic sense. End of story.

    • Largely this is true only because of huge subsidies for sprawl, low density development, and suburban expansion. If we stopped building highways and started building rails, urban cores would be more valuable. If we encouraged providing equitable housing rather than subsidizing upper middle class home ownership, there would a greater need for density.

  • NYCFLIPPER

    what is the point of building tall buildings when Firemen cant reach it. Don’t they have a escape plan when there is a fire? Remember world trade center fire where the firemen had to climb 100 stairs up to rescue people.

  • NYCFLIPPER

    For real?

  • Marc

    End all forms of rent control, public housing, subsidies for developers to force them to build for low income trash. Eliminate the capital gains tax and cut corporate taxes not to exceed 15%. Eliminate the depts. of interior, energy & education. Adopt zoning laws similar to Houston , Texas.
    I’d say that’s a start towards creating jobs and a more equitable (for you commie libs) economy. If that leads to more skyscrapers then so be it. Only a much more free market economy can make things work.

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