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

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

February 23, 2015 11:15 AM

The Burj Khalifa

From the New York site: 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