Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
CTBUH Leader's Message

November 2015 

Craig Gibbons
CTBUH Board of Trustees, Secretary
Brisbane Buildings Group Leader, Arup

I am writing this leader’s message while en route to the 2015 International Conference in New York City, “Global Interchanges: Resurgence of the Skyscraper City.” We are accustomed to our annual conferences being very successful, and knowing the hard work and preparation that has gone into this one, I look forward to it being our best conference yet. A while ago, when we were selecting possible venues for this year’s event, there was total unanimity amongst the Trustees that New York would be the right location, not least because the “home of the skyscraper” has seen significant high-rise activity in recent times. 

In Brisbane, we were fortunate to have Carol Willis, Curator of The Skyscraper Museum in New York, speak at the CTBUH Australia Region Symposium in September. Carol spoke eloquently to us about the crop of new super slender residential towers presently being designed and constructed in the Big Apple. Like many, I am keen to experience New York again to see these “skinny wonders” first-hand. I also relish the opportunity to see the completed One World Trade Center, having seen it in various stages of construction during previous visits.

The meeting in New York will be my last as a Trustee of the Council, having completed my term. As such I have been reflecting on how CTBUH has developed over the years I have been in the role. 

One aspect which I think is particularly relevant is the rise of CTBUH as a global entity. While the Council has long been recognized as the definitive authority on all matters tall, I have seen a significant increase of the global reach and recognition of the organization in recent years. More than ever, I am seeing the CTBUH engaging with, and being relevant to, different and more diverse sectors of the industry. The opening of the CTBUH office in China and production of material in dual language were significant and very positive steps in raising awareness of the Council in the most active tall building region. I would also add that changes to the CTBUH organization, via the introduction of City Representatives and the re-energizing of the Chapter Structure, has helped to further spread the awareness, activity, and reach of the CTBUH beyond the main centers of skyscraper activity. I have seen this first-hand in Australia where we are now witnessing collaborative and concerted activity across the main state capitols in the way we engage with our members, and potential new members, throughout the region.

I think the other aspect that has helped to reinforce the brand has been the consistent high quality of what the Council produces – be it design guides, journals, conference documents, or our fantastic website. Many people go out of their way to make comments to me about the quality of material they see. Clearly, this is very satisfying – it is great to walk into an architect’s office and see them proudly display the latest CTBUH technical guide or research document in their foyer, and even more satisfying that their staff are clued in to what the guide is all about. The Skyscraper Center has become the definitive global database on projects, people, and organizations in the tall building community. In my view this database is one of the most important aspects of what we do. The generosity of providing extensive and relevant data to all symbolizes the passion those within the CTBUH have for the work they do. I am sure you will be impressed by the recent enhancements to this tool that have recently been put in place.

This continued growth of the CTBUH, its reach, quality, and recognition is not something that simply happens on the back of increasing global tall building activity and construction. Far from it – it requires considerable effort and the continued input of a team of talented and committed people. I know you already know this, but Executive Director Antony Wood and the CTBUH staff have provided this in buckets, and this has been the key to the continued growth and success of the Council.

One of the other things I have noticed, and this I think has also helped to reinforce the global reach, is that the awards program has in recent years included regional winners from countries which are removed from the typical high-rise centers. I am thinking here of countries like Canada and Australia. One Central Park in Sydney being awarded the title of Best Tall Building last year really resonated down under. Another thing of note, as demonstrated by the award to One Central Park, is that the green credentials of tall buildings are becoming a key consideration. That particular building broke the mold in terms of its sustainability and, uniquely for Sydney, has a very large green wall along the elevation of the building. It is interesting to note that two of the four regional winners in this year’s Awards similarly have extensive exposed vertical green walls. If this is a trend, then it is one that should be supported and encouraged. I welcome the idea of Council Trustees in years to come trying to select a winner for best building from a selection of towers over 500 meters tall, all with vertical gardens, all being “zero energy,” and all made predominantly from timber…or am I just getting carried away?

I thank the Council for the opportunity to be a Trustee of such a great organization. I wish the new Trustees, the Chairman, and the staff all the best for the future.

Dr. Craig Gibbons