Skyscrapers: Definition, Design & Construction Facts

In This Post:
What is a Skyscraper?

How Tall Can a Skyscraper Get?
Brief History of Skyscrapers
Real-life Examples of Skyscrapers

The urban landscape of almost every other modern city in today’s world is dotted with tall buildings and high-rises. Besides beautifying the skylines of their host metropolises, these multistorey buildings have a very crucial role to play. They are built to address the ever-increasing demand for residential and commercial spaces in densely populated metropolitan areas, where scarcity of land has become a common issue.

The use of advanced technology in the field of construction has redefined the scope of architecture and engineering in the modern world. Such advancements and easy access to high-tech building equipment have made constructing super and mega tall skyscrapers practically possible. So, let’s find out more about these modern-day architectural and engineering marvels.

What is a Skyscraper? 

A tall or high-rise building is known as a skyscraper, which reaches a height of at least 100 to 150 metres. It should have a self-supporting structure, which does not require any cables or external support. Also, more than half of the building’s total height should have habitable floors. 

This is why not every other tall structure qualifies as a skyscraper. For example, CN Tower in Toronto, which stands at an extraordinary height of about 553 metres, is not considered a skyscraper as only less than 50% of the structure’s height has habitable floors.

Despite being 100 metres shorter than CN Tower, Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur satisfy the definition of a skyscraper as both of the buildings have habitable floors throughout their entire height.

How Tall Can a Skyscraper Get?

different heights of skyscrapers
Skyscrapers are categorised according to their height

Skyscrapers can be tall, super tall, and mega tall buildings, depending on their heights and floor counts. According to the structural engineer of the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, it is entirely possible to build a skyscraper taller than Mount Everest, which is the highest mountain on earth standing at a height of over 8800 metres.

“You could conceivably go higher than the highest mountain, as long as you kept spreading a wider and wider base,” William Baker says while being interviewed by an international news publication.

The greater the height, the bigger the challenges. Building a super tall structure is not as easy as building a normal-sized building. It needs to have a super solid foundation. Skyscrapers are literally anchored into the ground beneath them with tonnes of steel and solid concrete. This is to keep the structure safe from natural forces like gale force winds as well as seismic activities.

A Little History…

The history of skyscrapers dates back to the late 19th century, when the world’s first skyscraper was built. The Home Insurance Building was constructed in Chicago, USA, in 1855. Standing at a height of just 55 metres, the building was ten storeys tall, but still it was the world’s tallest building then.

After completion in 1931, the Empire State Building emerged as the world’s first tallest building. It fit the technical definition of a skyscraper of today’s world. With 102 storeys, it enjoyed the status of being the highest skyscraper in the world for many years.

Some of the Most Extraordinary Skyscrapers in the World

The scientific techniques of the modern world are constantly pushing the limits of engineering and construction capabilities of mankind. More and more mega tall buildings are being planned and developed in some of the world’s most advanced cities. Around 20 projects based on mega tall skyscrapers have been successfully completed in the last few decades and many more are still under construction. 

Now, let’s take a closer look and learn more about some of the super and mega tall buildings that have transformed the skylines around the world.

Burj Khalifa

burj khalifa is located in Dubai
Burj Khalifa—the tallest skyscraper in the world

Location: Dubai, UAE

Height: 828 m (2,717 ft)

Floor Count: 163

Year of Completion: 2010

Interesting Facts: The building is so tall that you would be able to see sunset twice on the same evening from observation decks located at different heights

Shanghai Tower

shanghai tower is the tallest building in china
Shanghai Tower is the world’s tallest twisted building, standing right next to Shanghai Financial Centre

Location: Shanghai, China

Height: 632 m (2,073 ft)

Floor Count: 128 

Year of Completion: 2015

Interesting Facts: It is known as the tallest twisted building in the world because of its unique architecture.

Abraj Al-Bait Clock Tower

Location: Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Height: 601 m (1,971 ft) 

Floor Count: 120 

Year of Completion: 2012

Interesting Facts: The building serves as a perfect backdrop for pictures of Masjid-al-Haram in Makkah taken from a certain angle. It is also the tallest building in the world that hosts a clock tower at its top.

One World Trade Center

one world trade centre is USA's tallest building
One Word Trade Centre in NYC is the tallest skyscraper in the western hemisphere

Location: New York City, USA

Height: 541.3 m (1,776 ft)

Floor Count: 104

Year of Completion: 2014

Interesting Facts: It is the tallest skyscraper in the western hemisphere. Recognized as the American Icon of the modern world, One World Trade Centre in New York has been constructed alongside the site of the original World Trade Centre, which was destroyed in the 9/11 incident.

Taipei 101

taipei 101 is the crowning glory of Taipei's skyline.
Taipei 101 remained the world’s tallest building from 2004 to 2010 before the completion of Burj Khalifa

Location: Taipei, Taiwan

Height: 508 m (1,732 ft)

Floor Count: 101

Year of Completion: 2004

Interesting Facts: As the name suggests, Taipei 101 has 101 floors. It was officially given the status of the world’s tallest building from 2004 to 2010 before the completion of Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Petronas Towers (aka Twin Towers)

Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Height: 451.9 m (1,483 ft)

Floor Count: 88

Year of Completion: 1998

Interesting Facts: The Petronas towers remained the tallest twin towers in the world until their height was surpassed by Taipei 101.

Quick Fact: Jeddah Tower, which is under construction in Saudi Arabia, is expected to become the world’s tallest skyscraper upon completion. It is going to be 1000 metres tall and will have 168 floors including two basements. The project has faced many unsuspected delays and now with the global pandemic situation, the future of this mega tall tower is hanging by a thread.

Now that we have discussed the history and explained to you some interesting facts about the construction of skyscrapers while giving you some extraordinary real life examples, it’s time for us to wrap up. We hope this post has provided you with all the useful information on the subject. 

Building a skyscraper is the most optimal use of the available space in crowded metropolitan areas, which ultimately reduces urban sprawl. Do you think tall buildings could make our cities more sustainable and help us better preserve the natural environments surrounding them? Let us know your thoughts at blog@zameen.com.

On a side note, you may also like reading our detailed posts on the benefits of walkability in urban centres and the concept of having vertical cities in Pakistan.

For more informative construction and real estate pieces, keep reading Zameen Blog, your source for the most up-to-date construction and best real estate blogs in Pakistan. You can also keep in touch by subscribing to our newsletter.



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