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The Tallest Buildings in the World & What's Next

Updated on September 30, 2017

Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The Burj Khalifa has been the tallest building in the world since 2010.
The Burj Khalifa has been the tallest building in the world since 2010. | Source

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 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

Source

Tallest Buildings in the World since 1998

Name
Location
Years as Tallest
Height
Floors
Petronas Towers
Kuala Lumpur
1998-2004
1483 feet (452 meters)
88
Taipei 101
Taipei
2004-2007
1671 feet (509.3 meters)
101
Burj Khalifa
Dubai
2007 to present
2717 feet (828.1 meters)
163

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.

The tallest buildings in the future will likely appear and feel similar to traditional sky scrapers. The reality will be that these structures will change the way that mankind builds everything. Our own homes may become lighter weight and much more conducive to remodeling.

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, beating the current record holder, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, by over 590 feet (180 meters).

Floor is added on top of floor. The structure rises by the use of cranes which are hoisted to new levels on the building. When construction is finished, these cranes will lower one another until all that remains is this amazing monument to man's ingenuity and his desire to reach higher.

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

Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world from 2004 to 2009.
Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world from 2004 to 2009. | Source

Skyscrapers of Pure Speculation

Here they are, the buildings of science fiction being seriously considered. From shortest 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, by cubic feet, 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 Skyscraper

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A computer render of the Sky Mile Tower.Tokyo's Sky Mile skyscraper has a planned completion date in 2045. At 5,517 feet (1,700 meters), it could house up to 55,000 residents.
A computer render of the Sky Mile Tower.
A computer render of the Sky Mile Tower. | Source
Tokyo's Sky Mile skyscraper has a planned completion date in 2045. At 5,517 feet (1,700 meters), it could house up to 55,000 residents.
Tokyo's Sky Mile skyscraper has a planned completion date in 2045. At 5,517 feet (1,700 meters), it could house up to 55,000 residents. | Source

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 will range from space elevator to orbital launch and will service space tourism, colonization, and exploration.

Home Sweet Tower-in-the-Clouds

Would you enjoy living in one of these towers of the future?

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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.

X-Seed 4000 Concept Skyscraper/Manmade Mountain

© 2017 Chris Mills

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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma

      Always a source of interest.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 months ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Tim, you mentioned elevators. The Tokyo Sky Mile Tower will feature vertical and horizontal elevators since the tower will be built in individual pods that are connected. I think you are correct about cultures within these structures. If cities move in this direction, society will change. In fact, cities will be made up of multiple tower-cities.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 months ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Bill, I didn't want to let all that research go to waste, so I came up with this. I'm with you. Big cities and crowds aren't my cup of tea. Even though most of my jobs keep me in big cities, I break out every weekend and hide in the trees, lakes, and rivers till the last minute. Good to see you, Bill.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 months ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Eric, I know what you mean. I love tall buildings too. 6 feet t

      all? I've always thought you were a giant of a man, but that would be true if you were 4 feet tall.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 months ago from Maple City, Michigan

      John, what this means is that within yours and my potential lifetimes, there could be a one-mile-high building. The sixty-foot silo on our farm, when I was growing up, seemed to be so tall. I remember the feeling of vertigo when I had to climb the outside.

      I'm in the process of rewriting about half a dozen of my short stories for possible publication in online magazines. The first one is already submitted to Azimov's Science Fiction. It grew from 6600 words to about 12,000. The second one is nearly finished.

      It's good to see you and others, here again, John. I've mentioned before that I am not a multitasker. I dive into a project like this and it consumes me. I get the feeling I'm not alone in that regard.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 3 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      A wonderful collection of the information. Now skyscrapers have become a part of our lifestyles. In my childhood (when I was 15 years or so), I stood on the top of a 14-floor building, The LIC Building in Chennai and was proud to have that accomplishment in my credit.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 months ago from The Caribbean

      I want to say "Ridiculous" but that just reveals my limited mentality, I think. These buildings are scary, but "Marvelous" maybe more appropriate. Thanks for the views.

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 3 months ago from Escondido, CA

      Very, very interesting Chris! My head is spinning wondering about the cultures embedded within a tower. I know people who have never stepped foot outside of their town. I am imagining people who never leave those buildings having all the amenities needed to live life. 55,000 people is a lot of people. Note: The idea of dependence on elevators is daunting to me considering a trust factor.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Just one more reason for me to live in a small city. I'm not a big building sort of guy....or a crowd sort of guy for that matter.....but the article was interesting, Chris!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Heck I am six foot, I figure that is tall enough ;-) This was so interesting. We had one building with an elevator when I grew up in my small town. My son loves it when we just cruise downtown now. He is a high rise junky. When I moved to San Diego there were only 4. How fast can you run up 30 floors?

      Thanks for sharing this buddy. I took about 30 minutes to walk up the Empire State building. I just love tall buildings.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      This was so very interesting, Chris. It is hard to believe these buildings are just getting taller and taller..unreal. Great photos too. Good luck with your latest story.