Archive for height

Which is the better way to measure a building’s height?

Posted in Architectural Territory with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2017 by vincentloy

Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) which is considered the foremost authority on tall buildings has made it clear that it has four ways of measuring a building’s height. Out of the four, height to the architectural top is officially used to determine the list of world’s tallest building. Architectural top here includes unoccupied spires/pinnacles/parapets that are permanent and critical to the overall design while disregards antennae, signage, flagpole or other ‘functional technical equipment’.

This is the reason why the Petronas Twin Towers won over Sears Tower (now renamed Willis Tower) to become the tallest buildings in the world back in 1997. The twin towers reach the height of 452 metres including their architectural spires while Willis Tower goes up to 527 metres including its antennae. However, antenna is not included and hence the official height of Willis Tower is just 442 metres.

The other three methods on measuring a building’s height that can be seen as alternatives or extensions of the main measuring method are height to top of roof, height to highest occupied floor, and height to highest point (tip). The latter method is the one that counts everything from a building from its base to its very top including those ‘functional technical equipment’. Once Taipei 101 was built in 2003,  the skyscraper cools down the controversy by topping the world’s tallest ranking in three out of the four methods. Then, Burj Khalifa came in 2009 to take all the top spots including the world’s tallest man-made structure and it is still holding the title now. The current list of world’s top ten tallest buildings is shown below which is measured in height to architectural top: (click on the image for larger version)

Besides than these four methods, other professional industries in this field of tall buildings such as the Emporis has its own set of methods too. But not to confuse anyone further, we will just stick to the more precise ones by CTBUH at this point.

There are still many parties who are not happy with these methods. They each has its flaws. The height to tip method rewards vanity height of all stripes, which could allow designers or developers seeking a height accolade to cheaply take the top spot using any poorly designed, extraneous addition to the roof. On the other hand, height to highest occupied floor does not acknowledge the impact that a building has on the experience of the urban environment – for example, the Burj Khalifa does not appear 584 meters tall but 828 meters, and as most of us will never be lucky enough to visit its topmost floor, it seems only sensible to judge its height based on its impact on the city’s appearance.

How about height to top of roof? In the variety of design of skyscraper nowadays, it’s very hard to judge the actual roof of a particular building. Is it just the roof over the highest occupied floor or roof covering the very highest portion of the building although the floor below it is not habitable.  The Burj Khalifa has 244 meters of vanity height, but where exactly is the roof over its top floor? The tapered design of this building does not allow for such simple definitions. The definition provided also repeats the flaw of the “height to top floor” method, in that many skyscraper designs have significant architectural additions above this, which impact how they are perceived by those on the ground.

Hence, which of the four methods are the best? Of can you define what’s the ‘best’ or the ‘better’ here? Louis Sullivan, an architect who is always known as the father of skyscrapers, says “It must be every inch a proud and soaring thing, rising in sheer exultation that from bottom to top it is a unit without a single dissenting line”.  If we take this to be true then it is clear that measuring the height to the tip, including – and rewarding – any and all of the clutter that often adorns the tops of skyscrapers is a move against design quality.

By contrast CTBUH’s official measurement tool, at the very least, holds designers accountable for ensuring that the way a building’s height is expressed is also a factor in establishing its quoted height. As architects, shouldn’t we support any tool which encourages tall buildings to be expressed elegantly? Recently, once the 1 World Trade Center in New York City is completed, another heated argument surfaces. Some claims that it is US tallest building but some said it’s Willis Tower. Many don’t see the antennae-like, awkward-designed and out-of-proportion spire on top of 1WTC as the key architectural element of the building. I too stand in that opinion. However, CTBUH has approved to have the spire as part of its architectural component in measuring its building height to the architectural top.

Increasing a building’s height with poor design is a big NO for me. Putting in a huge spire that is not proportionate to the overall building is a bad decision too. On the other hand, I do think it is necessary to have vanity height (non-usable height) to ‘complete’ a skyscraper especially when it is a tapering design on certain occasions. This issue actually leaves up a lot of questions and is open for multiple discussions.

Nevertheless, what’s important is that ‘the architects shouldn’t be arguing over which building is taller, but rather which building is better.’ 


(Images in this post are from the two sources listed above)




6 skyscrapers (beyond 400m high) that have architecturally topped-out and ready to climb to the ranking of the world’s tallest buildings.

Posted in Architectural Territory with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2015 by vincentloy

Many buildings constructed nowadays are mostly very high due to the worldwide interest on building tall as the trend helps to maximize the limited land space available especially in dense and highly-populated cities. However, till now, there are still not many buildings that cross the 400-metres mark in height. Till now, there is only about 18 buildings across the world that managed to cross that milestone. However, by next year, we would see at least 6 additional skyscrapers which would accomplish that too and be part of the official ranking of the world’s tallest completed buildings.

This means that these 6 buildings which are still under construction now have had already topped-out architecturally. Topped out means that the building has reached its final height but are still not completed in construction yet. These are the 6 buildings:

Ping An Finance Center, 599 metres, 115 floors, Shenzhen, China.



Goldin Finance 117, 596.5 metres, 128 floors, Tianjin, China.



Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre, 530 metres, 111 floors, Guangzhou, China.




Wuhan Center Tower, 438 metres, 88 floors, Wuhan, China.



Marina 101, 426.5 metres, 101 floors, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.



432 Park Avenue, 425.5 metres, 85 floors, New York City, United States of America.



These extremely tall buildings are all nearing completion. Out of the 6 buildings mentioned above, the first four tallest are all in China. China is in full force now not only in their emerging global power in economy but also in constructing supertall buildings. Few years later, the country is definitely going to dominate the world’s tallest list (in fact, now, they already did). China is big and we observed many emerging cities like Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Wuhan, Nanjing and Chongqing building skyscrapers aside from their already popular massive urban centres like Hong Kong and Shanghai.

(Images in this post are from forum webpages in

More details revealed for the mysterious KL118 Tower

Posted in Architectural Territory with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2015 by vincentloy

After giving my attention on several supertall skyscrapers under construction in China in my previous blog post, it’s time to shift back the focus to one supertall also currently undergoing construction back in my home city, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is the controversial KL118 Tower. Why I said it is controversial? Because the project is receiving much more criticism than praise from the citizens regarding the need of the city for another supertall building. People also questioned that the budget (over RM 5 billion) allocated for it may be of better use in other areas. It is also criticized for its location as the site of the project is in the vicinity of many heritage buildings (Petaling Street, Stadium Merdeka, Stadium Negara, Methodist Boys School, Victoria Institution, etc) and the tower and its surrounding proposed complex development will leaves huge impact and further heavy traffic to the area.

Whatever the criticisms are, the project is given the nod to proceed but not much details are publicized about the tower since then. The KL118 Tower makes up part of a complex of development known as Warisan Merdeka (Heritage Independence) development that also includes residential towers, shopping mall, etc. The tower itself has 118 floors, and will easily surpass Petronas Twin Towers (452 metres high) as the tallest building in Malaysia. There has been speculations till now over the final height of the tower. Previously, it is tipped to be slightly over 500 metres. Then, the height is revised to allow the building to go taller without adding more floors by amending the design of the spire, the finishing crown to the skyscraper.

So, what’s the height it would be? Based on the elevations or sections drawings available (leaked online), the building will be slightly over 600 metres. The height indicated from the ground floor is at about 75 metres till the top showing 715 metres. Hence, after the reduction, the building will reach full height of 640 metres. However, I think the structure / antenna above the spire will not be counted as the architectural height of the building. Hence, the final height of the tower would be about 610 metres. And there is a feeling in me that I think the tower will be of 615.7 metres (2020 feet high) in the end, to coincide with Wawasan (Vision) 2020; the year 2020 of which we targeted to achieve the high-income / developed nation status for Malaysia. It is also the year the tower would be opened to the public after its estimated completion in 2019.

Official renderings of KL118 Tower:




3D works of KL118 Tower by other parties:




 (Renderings by Atifnadzir,

Scale comparison of KL118 Tower (third from left) with other built supertall skyscrapers in the world. Petronas Twin Towers are on the most right:




Architectural drawings (plan, sections & elevations) of KL118 Tower. Here you can see quite clearly how the spire looks like, and the observation and viewing sky decks occupy four floors of the tower. And there’s a restaurant on level 113! :








Current site condition ( 2014 – 2019, now still construction at foundation and base level, long way to go):


When completed, it will be one of the top ten tallest buildings in the world (probably in 6th or 7th place). Now, after seeing more images / renderings of the tower, what is your thought on its design which is obviously based on diamond. KL118 Tower (I think the name will change later on when it is opened) is designed by Fender Katsalidis Architects, an Australian architectural firm. It’s a nice, sleek and futuristic design, but I hope that they can do more on its elevations and its top part which is a bit boring. It is not as appealing or as impressive if compared to Petronas Twin Towers besides than its height. Still, KL118 Tower would be a good addition to the skyline of KL.

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)


Shanghai Tower reached full height in its construction and is now the world’s second tallest building.

Posted in Architectural Territory with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2014 by vincentloy

To all skyscrapers’ fans, this is a great news. After nearly six years of construction, the Shanghai Tower has finally topped out officially when it reached its full height on its construction early this month. It has topped out a year ago, but only reached its final height when the last part of the roof is secured in place. And its final height now stands at 632 metres (2 073 feet).

If you are still unsure of how high that is, then imagine it’s double the height of Paris’ Eiffel Tower. Only behind Burj Khalifa (828 metres), Shanghai Tower is now the world’s second tallest building. It is also China’s tallest building, and is one of the three buildings in the world (not including TV towers) that stood above 600 metres mark. Looking up to the top of the building may break your neck.

So, what isn’t better than showing here some most recent images of the tower.





Spectacular building in a spectacular city. Shanghai Tower’s impressive height made it stood out easily above the rest of the many buildings in Shanghai that are already tall including its neighbours, the Shanghai World Financial Center (492m) and Jin Mao Tower (421m). I’m not only amazed by its height, but also by its free-flowing undulating design as the building’s form rises from the ground to the top. Clean, neat and fluid facade.

Here’s some interesting data regarding Shanghai Tower:

Height, architectural: 632 metres.

Height, to top of roof / tip: 632 metres.

Height, to highest occupied floor: 561 metres. 

Floors above ground: 128.

Floors below ground: 5.

No. of elevators: 106.

Tower’s General Floor Area: 420 000 metre square.

Building function: Hotel, office.

Energy Label: LEED Gold.

Architect: Gensler (Marshall Strabala as Chief Architect)

More data here:

Also not to forget that I like how this building addresses multiple ‘green’ / sustainability issues on its design (hence certified as LEED Gold) which should be seen as an example by others. Set to be completed and opened next year, I’m looking forward to visit this building soon. Going up to its observatory which will be the world’s tallest observatory (even taller than the one in Burj Khalifa that is only at about 400m level) would be certainly an overwhelming experience especially the opportunity to view the city’s skyline from this crazy height.


Shanghai Tower is going to be epic when the lighting is on soon. Looking from this angle (image above), the city can still cater for more supertall skyscrapers in near future since its economy is rapidly booming and the escalating interest on building big and tall in China.

(Images in this post are from

Top 10 World’s Tallest Buildings (Update – 2014)

Posted in Architectural Territory with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2014 by vincentloy

It has been quite some time (few years I guess) since I last compiled a list of the top ten tallest buildings in the world. As a reminder, this list does not includes TV towers (like CN Tower, Tokyo Sky Tree, Oriental Pearl Tower, etc), antennas, masts or other non-habitable structures. I think it’s time now for me to update the list as of year 2014 as I observed that there are two new skyscrapers set to be completed this year (and had already topped out now) which would be eligible to join this prestigious ranking by now. Without wasting any more time, here I reveal to you the latest official list of world’s top ten tallest buildings as of year 2014:

1. Burj Khalifa, 828 metres, 163 floors, Dubai (United Arab Emirates).

The Burj Khalifa stands in Dubai

2. Shanghai Tower, 632 metres, 121 floors, Shanghai (China).


3. Makkah Royal Clock Hotel Tower, 601 metres, 120 floors, Mecca (Saudi Arabia).


4. One World Trade Center, 541 metres, 104 floors, New York City (United States of America).



5. Taipei 101, 508 metres, 101 floors, Taipei (Taiwan).


6. Shanghai World Financial Center, 492 metres, 101 floors, Shanghai (China).


7. International Commerce Center, 484 metres, 108 floors, Hong Kong (China).


8 & 9. Petronas Twin Towers, 452 metres, 88 floors, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia).


10. Nanjing Greenland Financial Complex / Zifeng Tower, 450 metres, 89 floors, Nanjing (China).


A quick analysis or I shall say, 10 interesting facts to share from the list:

  • 9 out of 10 buildings in the list are in Asia, while 4 of them are in China alone.
  • One World Trade Center is the only one in the list from USA, a country that first observed the race to compete for the world’s tallest titles in history of building construction, before the momentum switched to Asia from late 1990s onwards.
  • By now, only buildings exceeding 450 metres in height will be placed to the top 10 list.
  • With only 2 metres higher than the minimum height of 450m as mentioned earlier, Petronas Twin Towers which are both once the tallest buildings in the world will be out of the list by next year. However, both would remain as the record holder of world’s tallest twin buildings for many years to come as there isn’t any taller planned or proposed twin buildings development.
  • Burj Khalifa maintains its position as the tallest in the world. It is also the current world’s tallest man-made structure of any kind. It has been taking the title for over 5 years by now, and is expected to remain so for another five years or more.
  • 5 buildings in the list exceeded 500 metres in height. That’s half a kilometre.
  • In the list, Petronas Twin Towers have the lowest number of floors (88). Same goes to Zifeng Tower (89). The towers still reached amazing height of over 450 metres due to high floor-to-floor level and also the crowning architectural pinnacles that are counted in official building’s height measurement.
  • Willis Tower (previously named as Sears Tower) has a total height of 527 metres including the antenna on top of the building, but it doesn’t count into the official measurement. Hence, its official height is only at 442 metres. That made it out of the top ten list. The building was once the world’s tallest building too, but now placed at No.11.
  • Shanghai Tower and One World Trade Center are the two new skyscrapers joining the list this year onwards. They have topped out earlier, and their constructions are expected to complete by this year.
  • Extra facts: There are now about 20 buildings in the world that are over 400 metres in height respectively. That’s an amazing feat.

(Information and images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

Shanghai Tower topped out!

Posted in Architectural Territory with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2013 by vincentloy

This is just amazing! I already expected that this building; Shanghai Tower is going to rise fast, but not to such awesome speed! The construction of the tower began in end 2008, and on this day, the tower’s construction achieved a milestone by having the structure of the tower topped out. Shanghai Tower, designed by Gensler is a supertall skyscraper of 632 metres high with 121 stories. It would be located next to the other two Shanghai’s supertall, Shanghai World Financial Center (492 metres) and Jin Mao Tower (421 metres), and also accompanied with nearby icon, Oriental Pearl Tower (468 metres).


Today, the final beam of the tower is placed at a height of approximately 580 metres above ground. That impressive height is already way beyond the highest point of Taipei 101, the tallest completed building in Asia currently (not including Middle East). Well, that is just the structure. What’s left would be the finishing glass cladding to the top of the tower to bring its full height to 632 metres and this is expected to be observed by end of this year. And yes, this tower doesn’t requires any spire or pinnacle to add up to its already-impressive height. Wonderful. Wow, my first two words to describe the tower still under-construction now right after I looked at the image below is ‘massive’ and ‘wow’.


Now, this is fast speed construction. When completed, the tower would be the world’s second tallest building (only behind Burj Khalifa at 828 metres). It will also be the tallest structure of any kind in China (surpassing Canton Tower in Guangzhou at 600 metres), and tallest building in Asia. However, I believe the building will not hold those records very long due to impressive demands for supertall buildings particularly in China. Hence, in few years time, it will be overtaken by some other skyscrapers as expected. But it will still stands proud, tall and amazing over the city of Shanghai. Impressive smooth twisting design with double-glass layer concept.


Wow. What a fantastic aerial view of Shanghai shown above. You can definitely spot the Shanghai Tower. (click on the image for large version) What’s left for the tower now would be the interior design, testing and running of services, exterior cladding and finishes. It will be opened to public next year. I’m looking forward to visit Shanghai soon so that I can have the opportunity to go up to the tower’s observatory and enjoy the breathtaking view of Shanghai skyline.

(Images in this post are from skyscraperpage forum website discussing on this particular building.)

Construction update: One World Trade Center topped out!

Posted in Explosive News and Results with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2013 by vincentloy

On May 10th, 2013 (that’s few days ago), the One World Trade Center officially topped out to its final height of 541 metres or 1776 feet. The figure (1776) is in reference to the year of American independence, hence making the height of the this iconic tower very symbolic to the nation. Construction started in 2006 after all the clearing works had been completed on the site where the 911 tragedy struck that brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 2001.

One World Trade Center, or famously known as Freedom Tower, is designed by David Childs from Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. It is to contain 104 floors of office space with a three-storey observation deck occupying the top portion of the tower alongside with mechanical levels which will goes up to 110th floor,  in another symbolic reference to the 110 stories of the original Twin Towers. Its roof stood at a height of 417 metres, which resembles the roof height of the former Twin Towers too.

The building has a square foot base, nearly identical to the footprint of the original Twin Towers, and from the 20th floor upwards, the square edges of the tower’s cubic base are chamfered back, transforming the building’s shape into eight tall isosceles triangles, or an elongated square antiprism. Near its middle, the tower forms a perfect octagon in-plan, and then culminates in a glass parapet whose shape is a square oriented 45 degrees from the base. A 408-foot (124 m) sculpted mast containing the broadcasting antenna – designed in a collaboration with lighting designers and engineers – is secured by a system of cables, and rises from a circular support ring. At night, an intense beam of light will be projected above the spire into the sky above.

Like I said before, on 10th May 2013, the final component of the spire was installed atop the skyscraper, making 1WTC the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the third tallest building in the world by pinnacle height. Now, let’s take a look at the current progress of the building’s construction from these very recently taken images from the others. The building is now at its final stage of construction, and is expected to be completed before end of this year.






The elevation of the tower looks very similar to Shanghai World Financial Center as you can see from the last image above. Previously, there was a change in the design of the tower at its base and on its spire even when it is already under construction at the time of the revision. But the part that affects my impression to the tower is its spire’s design now. Previously, there should be a glass radome below the spire which gently acts as a beautiful transition from the massive building block to the thin and slim pinnacle above. Now, that is omitted, and it leaves the building in quite an awkward feeling. The fully glass-clad building that ends ‘suddenly’ with a long spire. Ehh…Luckily, the circular ring at the roof is still there. I’m looking forward to the lighting design to the tower. Hmm…this building looks massive to me, but not that impressive. Anyway, it’s a very clean, bold and symbolic tower to United States. Now, it towers above all of its neighbouring buildings in Lower Manhattan, New York City.

(Images and information in this post are from various reliable sources throughout the world wide web).