Will the region continue to build upwards in 2017?
After a year without supertalls, what does 2017 have in store for the Middle East’s high-rise sector?
Nine towers of 200m or above were completed in the GCC last year, the same number as in 2015. But for the first time in a decade, the wider Middle East region failed to deliver a supertall structure of more than 300m.
Qatar saw four completions, including Gateway Towers, and the UAE saw two skyscrapers completed, the 235m Pearl in Abu Dhabi, and the 212m 118 Tower in Dubai, according to the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTUBH).
However, the CTUBH’s report said this did not necessarily indicate a move away from high-rise design in the region.
“Optimistic projections show as many as nine supertall buildings completing in the Middle East in 2017,” it stated.
“For the second year running, the Middle East ended the year  with nine completions. This continues a steady trend of completions in the region, but pales in comparison to its all-time high of 23 in 2011, a spike that was attributed to a global post-recession recovery in tall building construction. In all, 2016 was the first year since 2006 that the Middle East has not seen the completion of a supertall building, but one should be wary of assuming that this is indicative of a regional swing away from the supertall height threshold.
“In an unusual turn, the UAE did not have the greatest number of completions in the region for the year.”
However, globally, 128 high-rise buildings were completed in 2016, which beat every previous year on record, including the previous record high of 114 completions in 2015.
This brings the total number of 200m-plus buildings in the world to 1,168, marking a 441% increase from the year 2000, when only 265 existed.
Last year also saw the third-largest number of global supertall completions of any year, with 10, trailing only 2015, which saw 14, and 2014, which saw 11.
The tallest building to complete in 2016 was Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre, which stands as the tallest building in Guangzhou, the second-tallest building in China, and the fifth-tallest building in the world, at 530m.
Asia retained its status as the world’s skyscraper hub in 2016, completing 107 buildings, representing 84% of the 128-building total. For the ninth year in a row, China had the most 200m-plus completions, with a record 84, overtaking by 24% its previous annual record of 68 in 2015.
Thirty-one cities in China had at least one 200m-plus building completion, with Shenzhen outperforming any other city in the world, with 11.
Trailing behind Shenzhen were Chongqing and Guangzhou, each with six completions, followed by Chengdu and Dalian with five. Nanjing is also now an important skyscraper centre. Another notable completion was Warsaw Spire, a 220m tower that represents the tallest of several new projects recently rising in the Polish capital. In terms of its height on the Warsaw skyline, the tower ranks second only to the Soviet-era Palace of Culture and Science, built in 1955. Mexico City and Bangkok also saw two new tallest high-rises opened.
The functional split for tall building completions in 2016 remains almost perfectly consistent with that of previous years. Offices have by far the highest share, representing 52% of completions, with 67, achieving a consecutive all-time record, exceeding 2015, when there were 53.
Meanwhile, 38 mixed-use buildings were completed, representing 30% of the total, while 20 residential buildings came online, with a share of 16%. Only three all-hotel towers were completed in 2016, representing just 3% of the total. However as hotels are critical components of many mixed-use developments, the low number of completions for hotel-only towers does not indicate a downward trend for the hospitality sector altogether.