Skyscraper Completions Take Hit From COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020

The number of completed buildings taller than 656 feet (200 meters) in 2020 was 106, 20% lower than 2019 when 133 were completed. The last time this few tall buildings were completed was in 2014, when 105 were constructed. The trend was analyzed by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) in its “Tall Buildings in 2020” report.

“This is the second year in a row in which the completion figure declined. In 2019, the reasons for this were varied, though the efforts of China to curtail its debt, combined with public policy statements against needless production of exceedingly tall buildings, constituted a strong factor that has persisted into 2020,” reads the report.

CTBUH reports that it is anecdotally aware of nine projects across Malaysia, India and Brazil whose completion schedules were pushed into 2021 as a direct consequence of COVID-19. As tall buildings are often lagging economic indicators, according to the organization, any chilling effect that economic conditions or work interruptions may have had on new project starts, or projects that were under construction in 2020 and were scheduled to be completed in 2021 or later, remains to be seen. However, CTBUH points out that the Great Recession was not reflected on skylines, in terms of lower completion rates, until 2010 and 2011.

The number of supertall buildings, defined by CTBUH as being 984 feet (300 meters) or taller, completed in 2020 was 21, lower than 2019’s 26 buildings but still over 2018’s number at 18, which was a record at the time. 2020 was the first year since 2014 in which there wasn’t at least one building taller than 1,640 feet (500 meters) to be completed.

The tallest building completed last year was Central Park Tower in New York, at 1,548 feet (472 meters). This marks the first time in five years in which the tallest completed building was not in China. It’s the first time since 2014, when One World Trade Center in New York was completed, that the tallest building of the year is in the U.S.

Top Ten

The top ten tallest buildings completed in 2020 include:

  1. Central Park Tower in New York City, U.S.: 1,550 feet (472 meters)
  2. One Vanderbilt in New York City, U.S.: 1,401 feet (427 meters)
  3. Nanning China Resources Tower in Nanning, China: 1,321 feet (403 meters)
  4. Guiyang International Financial Center T1 in Guiyang, China: 1,316 feet (401 meters)
  5. Shum Yip Upperhills Tower 1 in Shenzhen, China: 1,273 feet (388 meters)
  6. Regis Chicago in Chicago, U.S.: 1,191 feet (363 meters)
  7. Neva Towers 2 in Moscow, Russia: 1,132 feet (345 meters)
  8. Heartland 66 Office Tower in Wuhan, China: 1,112 feet (339 meters)
  9. Parc1 Tower I in Seoul, South Korea: 1,109 feet (338 meters)
  10. Hengqin International Finance Center in Zhuhai, China: 1,108 feet (338 meters)

In the entire history of skyscraper construction, the two tallest buildings to complete in a given year (of 200 meters’ or greater height) have only occurred in the same city on ten occasions. New York had the two tallest buildings completed on four occasions: in 1930, 1931, 1963 and 2020. Other cities to have had this distinction include Chicago (1969 and 1989), Houston (1982 and 1983), Kuala Lumpur (1998), and Dubai (2000).

Global Snapshot

China completed more than half of the total tall buildings in 2020 at 56. However, that’s down from 57 in 2019 and 92 in 2018. Asia, excluding the Middle East, accounted for 66% of the global total, down slightly from a 69% share in 2019.

The United Arab Emirates was the second-most prolific country in 2020 with 12 tall buildings. However, all of those completions were located in Dubai, making the city the most prolific skyscraper builder last year.

The U.S. was third with ten tall buildings (New York was fourth in the city rankings), the U.K. was fourth with five tall buildings and South Korea was fifth with four completions. The U.S. moved down from its second place position in 2019, when it completed 14 tall buildings.

India completed three tall buildings last year, all of which are in Mumbai. Two of the buildings, World One and World View, reside in the same complex and are the same height at 935 feet (285 meters). They are the country’s new tallest buildings.

Mexico completed its first supertall building in 2020. T.Op Torre 1 in Monterrey is 1,002 feet tall (305 meters) and located in Monterrey, Mexico.

Fifteen cities around the world got a new tallest building in 2020, down from 20 in 2019. Of those cities, nine are in China. The only city in the U.S. to complete a new tallest building was Jersey City, N.J.

Emerging Trends

North America was responsible for constructing the most tall buildings from 1930 through 2000. However, Asia quickly became the leading region following 2000. In 2020, the region was responsible for constructing 61% of the world’s tall buildings while North America was responsible for only 14%. This is a major change from 2000, when North America accounted for 51% and Asia accounted for 36%. In 1990, Asia only accounted for 12% of the world’s tall buildings completed that year.

By function, the highest percentage of the world’s tall buildings were mixed-use. Forty-nine percent of the world’s tall buildings completed in 2020 were mixed-use, up from 24% in 2010. In 2020, 36% of the completed tall buildings were offices, down from 61% in 2010.

With respect to materials, in 2020, 9% of the 100 tallest buildings were steel construction (compared to 8% in 2019), 29% concrete (unchanged from 2019), 58% composite (1% lower than 2019), and 4% mixed structures (unchanged from 2019).

2021 Forecast

CTBUH expects a minimum of 125 and maximum of 150 tall buildings to be completed in 2021. For supertall buildings, it predicts a minimum of 14 and maximum of 30 completions. If the maximums are reached it would be another record year for the tall building industry.

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