Dubai Marina: 'Tallest block in the world'

Recognition, prestige and planning governance among other factors drive Middle East to build 'megatall' towers

The Middle East is outstripping the West in terms of ‘megatall’ buildings with Dubai beating China, having already built three of the world’s tallest buildings including Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, according to a new report.

In a report titled ‘Megatall: What does it take?’ EC Harris refers to Dubai Marina being home to 14 out of the 20 current tallest buildings in the emirate as the “tallest block in the world.”

Dubai is also home to Princess Tower (414 metres), the world's highest residential tower, JW Marriott Marquis (355 metres), the world's highest hotel, and Cayan Tower, formerly known as Infinity Tower, the world’s tallest tower with a 90-degree twist.

Emporis data reveals that Dubai has 1,881 tall buildings of which 856 exist, 627 are planned, 355 under construction, 42 un-built and one demolished. Overall, there are 909 high-rises and 448 skyscrapers.

EC Harris says, “Four out of 10 of the world’s tallest buildings are currently located in China, Asia’s economic powerhouse, but Dubai is storming ahead with three of the world’s four tallest buildings to be built there alongside the current tallest building in the world; the Burj Khalifa.”

The one-kilometre-high Kingdom Tower, Saudi Arabia, is currently under construction and is due for completion in 2019. The tower will dominate the world’s “megatall” towers and will be just over three times the size of The Shard – the UK’s tallest building.

“Within the next decade, the trend of building ‘megatall’ towers – those which reach more than 600 metres high – is likely to increase, particularly in the Middle East,” the report revealed.

Referring to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat data, EC Harris said that until a few years ago such of buildings were not even in existence, but now over 10 “megatall” buildings will be built across the world by 2020.

“Interestingly all of these buildings exist in either the Middle East or Asia. The tallest building under construction outside of these regions is the One World Trade Centre, in New York, which will stand at 540 metres.”

EC Harris report states four main reasons for the shift of ‘megtall’ towers from the West to the East. They are:

Planning governance: In mature markets (specifically the West), planning governance has had a significant impact in controlling the height of buildings. Many mature cities want to protect the view of their skyline. In contrast, the Middle East has a much more relaxed planning regime, which is enabling this shift.

Land value + the economy: The report points to a direct link with economic growth (GDP) and where tall buildings are constructed. The emerging markets, typically in the Middle East and Asia, land values are low and the economy outlook has been promising. In contrast the Western market land values are particularly high with little GDP growth.

Population increase: In heavily populated cities land is scarce and valued greatly. As a consequence, these cities that have a high population rate have more demand for tall buildings. The population rate across Asia is huge and the land is scarce, therefore the need to build tall is a necessity in the East.

Demand for recognition and prestige: New emerging markets continue to command recognition and as a result society demands new developments and infrastructure. As countries in the East build more iconic and tall buildings, prestige and recognition follows. These tall constructions often anchor other developments and infrastructure and encourage new value to be created in the surrounding areas.

The report goes on to cite Burj Khalifa to be a significantly high valued piece of real estate.

“As a result this was made the centerpiece of a new business and residential district in Dubai and consequently a premium is charged for properties in the area, specifically for those with clear views of the skyscraper,” the report reveals.

Terry Tommason, Head of Property, Middle East at EC Harris, states: “The construction market in the Middle East has continually shown this tenacity and expertise in the last decade or so, which, combined with its economic growth, is why it is now taking the lead in outstripping the West in terms of ‘megatall’ buildings.

“With the Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia due for completion in the next six years and economies in the Middle East continuing to grow, there is no sign of this trend toward the ‘megatall’ slowing.”  

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