World’s Tallest Building in Karachi: Fact Vs Fiction

dsd Originally published in The on 28 feb 2013.

Over view of Tallest buildings in the world
Over view of Tallest buildings in the world

Recent claims by a business tycoon regarding the constructing world’s tallest building in Karachi needs to be seen rationally and facts need to be segregated from fiction. A few relevant issues in this regard are addressed below:

What is a tall building?

According to Council on Tall buildings and Urban Habitat there is no absolute definition of a “tall building.” However, a building that exhibits some element of “tallness” in relative height, proportion, and technology qualifies as a tall building. As a guideline, any building over 50 meters in height could be called a tall building. A tall building with fifty or more storeys is certainly a skyscraper. A smaller building may be considered a skyscraper if it changes the overall skyline. In modern terms, a building over 300 meters is called “Super Tall” and a building over 600 meters is “Mega Tall.” As of July 2012, there are sixty-five Super Talls globally. The only Mega Talls of the world are The Clock Tower Makkah (651m), Saudia Arabia, and Burj Khalifa (838m), Dubai.

How is a tall building measured?
Three methods for measuring tall buildings are “Height to Architectural top method,” in which the building is measured from ground level to the roof. In “floor method,” measurement is done from ground level to the highest occupied floor. In “Height to Tip Method,” the building is measured to the highest point including the antennae.

Why tall buildings are build?

Single-function tall buildings are most commonly used as offices, residential, and hotels and are normally defined as when 85% or more of the total floor space is dedicated to a single usage. A mixed-use tall building combines two or more functions. A major reason for developing tall buildings is to cater for limited availability of land in urban areas, due to increased influx of population. Also, with better technology, it is cost-effective to develop tall buildings.

What are the tallest buildings at present?

As of 2012, the three tallest buildings of the world are Burj Khalifa Dubai (838m), Makkah Royal Clock Tower (601 m), and Taipei 101 (508 m). However, three under construction tallest buildings are in China: the Ping An Finance Center (660m), Wuhan Greenland Center ( 636m) and Shanghai Tower(632m) would surpass Royal Clock Tower, Makkah. According to future proposed plans, Building J220 in China would be 838 m high (equal to Burj Khalifa) and the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia would stand tallest at a whopping 1000 meters!

Where tall buildings are currently being built?
Since year 2000, the number of “sub tall” buildings (taller than 200 meters) has increased threefold. The trend has shifted from United States and Europe to Middle East and China. In 2012, Sixty-six sub talls were completed, including twenty-two buildings in China, seven in Saudia and five in UAE. Makkah was the city that completed maximum number of sub tall buildings; five in all. In the same year United
States completed two “sub tall” buildings.

Country wise, China, UAE (mainly Dubai), and Saudia Arabia are leading contestants for the world’s tallest buildings. Ironically, Dubai, which now hosts the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, did not have a single sub tall (200m) before 1999. Saudi Arabia currently has twelve buildings that are 200 meters or taller, but in the next few years, the number could dramatically increase. Currently, five super tall (300m) buildings, three in Riyadh, and two in Jeddah are under construction.

When is a “tall building” considered complete?

The status of a building is categorized as “Proposed” when apart from a few other prerequisites, its design has progressed beyond the conceptual stage and has obtained or is in the process of obtaining formal planning consent/legal permission for construction. A building is considered to be a “Vision” when it is a theoretical proposition and is in its early stages of inception. Globally a tall building is considered complete only if it is available for its intended use. Currently, across the globe there are 59 projects under construction, which once completed will join the list of the 100 tallest buildings in the world.

Current status of Pakistan’s top buildings
According to Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the existing tallest buildings in Pakistan are Ocean Tower (120 m), MCB Tower (116m), PIC Tower (101m), and Habib bank Plaza (96m), all in Karachi. Port Tower (592m) and Karachi Port Tower (352m) are the projects in their visionary phase, while Bharia Icon Tower Karachi (260m), Sheikh Zaid building (195m) Lahore and The Centauraus Tower
in Islamabad falls under the “Under Construction” category.

Options for Pakistan
Presently, in order to build tallest building of the world in Pakistan, Burj Khalifa (828m) had to be surpassed before 2018 because after that Kingdom Tower, Jeddah (1000m) would be ready which would require us to built something more than one kilometer high in the sky!

Keeping in view the narrow “time window” available, it will be important to consider that Burj Khalifa took six years (2004-2009) to complete with abundant funds and least security concerns and Kingdom Tower has already entered its “Proposal Stage”.

In any case, if “tallest building” has to be built in Pakistan, then instead of a multipurpose building like Burj Khalifa, the scope can be reduced to a single purpose building. In that case “World’s Tallest Hotel Building” at Karachi had to be taller than JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai Tower 1 (355m), “World’s Tallest Office Building” would require Taipei 101 (508m) to be surpassed and “World’s Tallest All Residential Building” had to subdue Princess Tower of Dubai (413m). However, in terms of returns on investment, multipurpose buildings are preferred.

Sadly, keeping in view the above analysis, the dream of building the world’s tallest building in Karachi seems to be distant. Claiming to build the tallest building in Pakistan is easier said than done. We might not run out of money, ambition, or plans, but in the competitive tall building era, we might run out of time. The need to create efficient buildings for people to live and work is pushing the vertical limit higher and higher and there is no chance soon that this tendency would fade away.

Note : All the figures and data has been obtained from the official website of The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), an international body in the field of tall buildings and sustainable urban design based at the Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago, Illinois, United States.


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