Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Tallest Buildings Completed in 2008

2008 A Bumper Year for Skyscrapers, Although the Future Remains Uncertain...
Tallest 10 Buildings Completed in 2008

Diagram of 10 tallest buildings completed in 2008 (according to height to architectural top).
Click here to download full project data, including images, on the tallest 10.

Chicago, January 26th, 2009 – Against the backdrop of global economic crisis, 2008 has witnessed probably the most successful year of skyscraper construction ever, with more – and taller – skyscrapers constructed globally within a single year than at any other time. The CTBUH ‘Ten Tallest Buildings Completed in 2008’ research [1], indicates that the average height of these tallest ten constructed in 2008 was 319 meters / 1048 feet, some 31 meters above the previous highest average of 288 meters / 944 feet (set in 1998 with completion of the two 452 meter-tall Petronas Towers). That constitutes some 676 floors of new construction amongst these ten buildings alone, and has added in a single year four supertall buildings to an existing global super-tall stock of only 38 supertalls [2].

The tallest of these supertalls, and therefore the tallest building to be completed internationally in 2008, is the Shanghai World Financial Center. At 492 meters (1614 ft) the Shanghai World Financial Center, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, is now the world’s second tallest building. Interestingly, the building sits next to what is now the world’s 6th tallest building, the Jin Mao Building.   

Geographically the Tallest Ten Buildings Completed in 2008 reinforces what is becoming a well known doctrine in the tall building world – namely that Asia and the Middle East are the current center of high-rise construction globally. There are now more tall buildings in Asia than in North America, and of the ten tallest buildings on the 2008 list, six are located in Asia (all in China) and three in the Middle East (all in Dubai).

Shanghai World Financial Center   

Only the Comcast Center in Philadelphia, at number six on the list, is located in North America. In fact one has to go back to 1991, with the completion of the Key Tower in Cleveland, to find the last time a building in North America topped the ‘Ten Tallest Completed’ list. This shift in skyscraper construction location has occurred at a staggering pace; as recently as 1990, 80% of the 100 Tallest Buildings in the World were located in North America. By 2010, just two decades later, this figure will have decreased to just 22%.

If we put the 2008 figures in the context of previous and upcoming years, we can see confirmed the incontestable fact that the tallest buildings in the world have been getting taller each decade, and this is set to continue certainly in 2009 with the expected completion of the next ‘World’s Tallest Building’ – the Burj Dubai. At over 800 meters / 2700 feet in height, the Burj Dubai will be approximately 60% taller than the world’s current tallest building – the 509 meter high Taipei 101 in Taiwan.

However, how can this be, in a world of global bailouts, failing banks and rising unemployment?

Shanghai World Financial Center, Shanghai

How can we have such discrepancy between on the one hand the stark realities of economic bust now evident, and on the other hand the delivery of these very visual products of economic boom? Well, given that any tall building project – and certainly any supertall building – takes often 5-10 years to come to fruition from the initial concept of the project, it is perhaps not surprising that there is this mis-match between idea and delivery. Tall buildings – like many large, intensive developments – are inextricably linked to the confidence inspired by a buoyant market i.e. they are often conceived at the height of a market. Given, as history shows, that unbridled economic prosperity beyond a certain period of time without slowdown is highly unlikely, it is virtually inevitable then that many of these projects – conceived at the height of the market – will be delivered at the trough of a market, or at least in a time of economic slowdown.

[1] As always, strict criteria influences the putting together of this list; buildings are only eligible if they are considered ‘completed’ - that is, if they fulfill all three of the following criteria; 1) topped out structurally and architecturally, 2) fully-clad, 3) open for business, or at least partially occupied.

[2] Note: It is interesting that this is the first time that the average height of the ten tallest buildings constructed in a year has risen above the 300-meter mark, which is the threshold for a super-tall building as defined by the CTBUH.

Click here for the pdf of an extended article on tall building construction in 2008, set in the context of global finances and the onset of the economic recession.


Tallest Ten Buildings Completed in 2008

This study contains a diagram of the tallest ten buildings completed in 2008 and project information such as building height, story number, architect, location, etc.

Click here for a pdf of the CTBUH Tallest Ten Buildings Completed in 2008.

Tall Buildings in Numbers: 2008

This article is focused more broadly than the Tallest Ten study. It contains information on the 50 tallest buildings completed and examines statistics on buildings over 200 meters completed in 2008.

Click here for a pdf of the CTBUH 2008 Tall Building in Numbers