Tall Buildings and Population: Global Study

Tall buildings, once almost exclusively a product of North America, are spreading across the globe at an ever-increasing rate. The global number of buildings 200 meters or more in height has risen from 286 to 634 in the last decade alone. Currently, these buildings exist in 32 countries across the world. Continental Asia now contains 403, or over 63% of these buildings. This study shows the tallest building in each of these countries, the average height and age of the ten tallest in each country, the number of million inhabitants per 200m+ building in each country, and the percentage share of the global total of 200m+ buildings and population.

Figure 1. Global, regional and country populations compared to buildings 200 m+ in height. ©CTBUH. view larger
Notes: 1. Data accurate as of March 1st, 2011; 2. Building data source: CTBUH Tall Building Database; 3. Population data source: U.N. Population Database;

The statistics make for interesting reading, beginning with the average age of the world’s top ten buildings being just eight years, but varying widely as you would perhaps expect across countries—from just two years in Panama’s tallest, to 32 years in the United States. An average age of the tallest ten of 3–5 years for Bahrain, Dubai, Indonesia, Kuwait, Qatar and Vietnam indicates some of the other most active markets in recent years. Although, undoubtedly, China is currently the most active market in sheer scale and number of projects being undertaken, the average age of ten years for its tallest ten reminds us that the Far Eastern giant has actually been building supertall buildings for some time now, reinforced by the fact that the average height of its tallest ten (421 meters) is greater than any other country (followed by Dubai with an average of 381 meters and the US with an average of 357 meters). At the shorter end of the 32 countries making up the study, Austria has the shortest top 10 (with an average height of 128 meters) followed by Vietnam (141 meters) and Venezuela (153 meters).

Of course, the statistics can indicate different things in different countries. One can’t imagine the average height in Austria getting significantly taller than it is currently, due to the maturity of the building investment market there, whereas the low average height in Vietnam is clearly a product of the relatively-recent emerging market condition in the country. Thus, one would expect Vietnam’s average height to climb significantly over the next few years, as it has done in other Asian countries such as Thailand (229 meters), South Korea (252 meters) and Malaysia (276 meters).

Figure 2. Continental Asia populations compared to buildings 200 m+ in height. ©CTBUH. view larger

A similar story is seen in the population statistics. A figure of 2 million people for every 200m+ tall building in the United States (considered against a global average of 11 million people per building) indicates a mature skyscraper market and a perhaps healthy balance between tall buildings and population drivers. On the other hand, figures as low as only 200,000 people per 200m+ building in the UAE suggest that population growth has not been a significant factor in the development of tall buildings there. At the other end of the scale Turkey with 77 million people per 200m+ building, Vietnam with 88 million people and India with a huge 612 million inhabitants per 200m+ building show a huge potential for further tall activity. Of course, these predictions are based on the presumption that tall buildings and the increased densification of these countries are a given trajectory, a debatable assumption on many levels.

The final aspect of the study to highlight is each country’s percentage of the global number of 200m+ buildings in comparison to its percentage of global population, with a discrepancy between the two perhaps indicating either a rise or a decline in the tall building market. The US, for example, currently contains 25.6% of the world’s 634 buildings 200m+, but only contains 4.5% of the global population. In contrast, China contains 33.4% of the buildings (the largest of any country) and 19.5% of global population. At opposing ends of this scale we see, again, the UAE with 7.7% of the total number of buildings but only 0.1% of the global population, and India with 17.8% of global population but only 0.3% of the building stock.

Figure 3. Tall & Urban graphic key. ©CTBUH.

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View the original study from the CTBUH Journal


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