Reason for Vanity Height
I totally agree with Ryan’s point on the non-occupiable ‘vanity height’. It is a shame how those skyscrapers being recognised as supertalls even though they have as high as 29% of their overall height being some useless structures.
It is noticeable that after 2010, China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) becomes the two main countries building supertalls. (Figure 3) Vanity height of supertalls in China are mainly below 10% of the overall architectural height, with some taking as high as 20-30%. Those in the UAE are fairly concentrated between 10-20%, with some which are 20-30%. In conclusion, we can say that the UAE is building the most supertalls with most vanity height within the shortest period of time. (Figure 2)
The economy of UAE did not rapidly grow until the export of oil in 1962. Huge revenue from oil exports transformed the country. UAE become independent from Britain in 1971. It is now the second largest economy in the Arab world. (UAE Ministry of Economy, 2015)
China has the world’s fastest-growing economy. Economic reform and the Open Door Policy in late 1970s makes China one of the largest exporters. (BBC, 2016)
We can see that UAE and China share similar growing path. That may be a reason why these two countries are keen on building supertalls and getting into different rankings. Before the construction technology is good enough to build a thousand-meter-high building with all spaces occupiable, vanity height becomes the way how taller and taller buildings can be built.
Figure 4: Sheung Wan, Hong Kong (Yeung, 2016)
Concerns on the Development of Supertalls
I am concerned about the development of supertalls in the future. As we look back to a century ago when the concept of garden city was first proposed, it seems to be a good solution for population boom. However, when we look at building projects that were built in a similar way, the environmental impacts are significant. Hong Kong may be an extreme example, but it is a very clear example on the impacts of having too many skyscrapers in one city. For example, wall effect brought about by buildings is a serious environmental problem.
Even though the Shanghai Tower is claimed to be the ‘greenest skyscraper in the world’, the existence of the building itself is making a huge change to the surrounding area. Some says building taller buildings can free ground floor spaces for more public space. That may be true when it was first planned, but what if when the buildings technology improved and housing demand increase? That is very likely to have more and more supertalls to fulfil people’s needs. That is obviously not a good thing to have cities full of supertalls.
BBC (2016) China profile – full overview. [Online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13017879
BBC (2016) United Arab Emirates country profile. [Onilne] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14703998
Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (2013) Vanity Height: the Empty space in Today’s Tallest. [Online] Available at: http://www.ctbuh.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=k%2BK%2FgAvA7YU%3D&tabid=5837&language=en-US
UAE Ministry of Economy (2015) The Annual Economic Report 2015, pp. 11 [Onilne] Available at: http://www.economy.gov.ae/EconomicalReportsEn/MOE%20Annual%20Report%20English%20-%202015.pdf
Top Photo: Collage of World Skyscrapers (no name, no date) http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/the-robinson-expedition/images/c/cb/Ft_world.jpg/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/640?cb=20150322010248
Figure 1: List of Tallest Buildings in the World (Courtesy of CTBUH, 2013) http://images.adsttc.com/media/images/5228/ee13/e8e4/4e5f/df00/00a0/large_jpg/Ten_Tallest_HQ.jpg?1378414087
Figure 2: History of Vanity Height (Courtesy of CTBUH, 2013) http://images.adsttc.com/media/images/5228/ede2/e8e4/4e5a/6100/00ad/large_jpg/History_of_Vanity_HQ.jpg?1378414039
Figure 3: Vanity Height in Detail (Courtesy of CTBUH, 2013) http://images.adsttc.com/media/images/5228/edcc/e8e4/4e5a/6100/00ac/large_jpg/Details_HQ.jpg?1378414013
Figure 4: Sheung Wan, Hong Kong (Yeung, 2016) https://www.facebook.com/andyyeungphotography/photos/a.1027146097303182.1073741837.1025740567443735/1525573247460462/?type=3&theater
Figure 5: Walled buildings, Hong Kong (Wolf, no date) http://photomichaelwolf.com/wp-content/uploads/a39.jpg
Figure 6: Mei Foo Sun Chuen, Hong Kong, the largest private housing development in the world (Apple Daily, 2011) http://static.apple.nextmedia.com/images/apple-photos/apple/20110108/large/08bx01p.jpg
Figure 7: Ville Radieuse by Le Corbusier (ArchDaily, 2013) http://images.adsttc.com/media/images/5200/1cc3/e8e4/4e6d/b000/0007/large_jpg/Corbusierville3millionsg.jpg?1375739072
Figure 8: Five of the Top Ten ‘Vainest’ Skyscrapers in Dubai (Alamy, 2013) http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/09/07/article-2413862-045B6CCE00000514-364_634x378.jpg