China Pushes Skyscraper Numbers into the Clouds

China has proved once again that it is the most prolific builder of tall structures in the world.  Last year a total of 128 buildings were constructed worldwide that were 200 metres tall or more, and an incredible 84 of these were built in China. That equates to 66% of the world’s tallest buildings.

Not only does this put China at the top of the list of countries building the tallest structures for the ninth year in a row, but, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, China’s 84 new high-rises constitute a new record in the construction industry.

It seems strange that in a country where the occupancy rates of high-rise buildings, especially in the major cities, seem to be dwindling, the construction of these super-structures is actually accelerating rather than declining.

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The recently completed Ping An Finance Centre in Shenzhen, is the now the second tallest building in China, at 599 metres tall, only overshadowed by the Shanghai Tower in the financial capital of the country.

This is only one of hundreds of structures that are planned for the next few years in this country.

By comparison, the United States only produced seven similar structures last year. So why does this Chinese construction trend continue so ferociously, in spite of dropping occupancy rates in these buildings?

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Daniel Safarik, the China Office Director for the Council on Tall Buildings suggests that the local governments in China are striving to meet their economic growth targets in their respective areas, and they are hoping to achieve this by creating as much rentable space as possible on smaller pieces of land.

There is also a firm belief in China that tall buildings which reshape the skyline of the larger cities are seen as a visible and tangible sign of economic growth and progress by outside investors, regardless of occupancy rates.

Shenzhen alone saw 11 high-rises of 200 metres or more built last year, which is more than were built in any other country outside China.  New York, in comparison, only developed four new structures of this kind over the same period.

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According to the commercial arm of London estate agent Savills, the supply of leased office space in London far outweighs the demand and the multinationals have been taking up less and less of the available high-rise office space due to economic pressures and the uncertainty caused by Britain’s imminent exit from the European Union.

Whether China follows suit in taking a more pragmatic approach to the development of skyscrapers remains to be seen. For now, at least, Chinese developers continue to reach for the sky.