The Quest for the Tallest Building in the world
Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The Rapid Growth of Skyscrapers
I’ve been working on a mixed genre short story lately. The science fiction suspense thriller required me to research skyscrapers of the future. I found they broke down into two categories. One is those with actual start dates for completion. The other list is made up of structures that are strictly speculative.
I guess I’ve lost touch with which building is the tallest in the world and how tall it actually is. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I stood on the observation deck of the Sears Tower, which is now called the Willis Tower, in Chicago. At 1,450 feet (442.1 meters) with 108 floors, it was the tallest building in the world, a title it held from 1973 to 1998.
I was surprised to see how far we have come and how tall manmade structures have grown. Since 2010, the tallest building in the world has been the Burj Khalifa in Dubai which is 2,717 feet (829.8 meters) with 163 floors.
Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tallest Buildings in the World since 1998
Years as Tallest
1483 feet (452 meters)
1671 feet (509.3 meters)
2007 to present
2717 feet (828.1 meters)
Charts on the History of the Tallest Building in the World
Future Building Materials for Skyscrapers
Changes in the materials used in constructing these buildings enable us to build ever higher.
- Elevator Rope-In the past, steel rope was the material of choice to lift elevators in skyscrapers. But beyond 1600 feet (about 500 meters) steel rope is simply too heavy. Carbon fiber rope is coming to the rescue. Carbon fiber, reinforced with resins, is one-seventh the weight of steel rope. Carbon fiber rope does not stretch and is resistant to wear.
- Nonmetallic Composite materials-Carbon fiber, fiberglass, and other structural plastics are lightweight and stronger than conventional materials. Eventually, steel girders and welding will be a thing of the past.
- Glue-These nonmetallic composites can be glued together. We already build aircraft and automobiles this way, so why not our buildings, including skyscrapers?
- Plastic components would be replaceable for repairing or redesigning the tower.
Jeddah Tower, The Next Tallest Building in the World
Jeddah Tower has been under construction since April 1, 2013, and has a completion date in 2020. The anticipated height of the structure is 3,307 feet (1008 meters). It will be the first skyscraper over 1,000 meters. It will beat the current record holder, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, by over 590 feet (180 meters).
Jeddah Tower Under Construction
Future Skyscrapers With Dates for Completion (Construction not Started)
How high might we go with skyscrapers? First, let's take a look at skyscrapers which are being planned and have a target date for completion. Then we will look at those which are still speculative but receiving serious consideration.
- Mubarak al-Kabir Tower-First proposed in 2006, this tower is to be built in Madinat al-Hareer, Kuwait. Its height will be 3284 feet (1,001 meters) with a completion date in 2026.
- Azerbaijan Tower-First proposed in 2012, this tower is to be built in Baku, Azerbaijan. Its height will be 3,440 feet (1,050 meters) with a completion date in 2019. (Construction status is unknown).
- Edison Tower-First proposed in 2015, this tower is to be built in New York City. Its height will be 4,300 feet (1,310 meters) with a completion date in 2030.
- Sky Mile Tower-First proposed in 2015, this tower is to be built in Tokyo, Japan. Its height will be 5,517 feet (1,700 meters) with a completion date in 2045.
Taipei 101, Taipei, Republic of China
Future Skyscrapers, Speculative
Here they are, the buildings of science fiction, becoming reality. Well, they are at least being seriously considered. From shortest (I hate to even use the term) to tallest here is what we might expect in the not so distant future.
- Times Squared 3015-New York City. Height-5,686 feet (1,733 meters).
- Millennium Challenge Tower-Kuwait. Height-6,076 feet (1,852 meters).
- The Dutch Mountain-(Artificial mountain). Flevoland, The Netherlands. Height-6,600 feet (2,000 meters).
- Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid-Tokyo, Japan. Height-6,575 feet (2,004 meters). Would be the largest manmade structure on Earth.
- Dubai City Tower-Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Height-7,900 feet (2,400 meters).
- Ultima Tower-San Francisco, USA. Height-10,558 feet (3,218 meters).
- X-Seed 4000-Tokyo, Japan. Height-13,000 feet, (4,000 meters).
Tokyo's (Proposed) Sky Mile SkyscraperClick thumbnail to view full-size
Other Structures, Not Skyscrapers
There are other proposed structures that are either transport systems or tethers. These would range from 12 miles (20,000 meters) to 62,000 miles (100,000,000 meters). Their uses include space elevator and orbital launch. Their purposes are space tourism, colonization, and exploration.
Home Sweet Tower-in-the-Clouds
Would you enjoy living in one of these towers of the future?
Why Build Higher?
I don't know how that strikes you, but it leaves my head spinning. Within my lifetime, and I'm 60 years old, we could see the first, mile high skyscraper. What is the purpose of building ever higher? The world's population is now 7.5 billion and is anticipated to be 9.7 billion by 2050, only 33 years away. As cities grow, land will become even more scarce. Building higher, rather than wider, seems to be the driving force behind the never-ending race for the tallest building in the world.