Diagram: 'Ten Tallest Buildings Completed in 2008,' CTBUH
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH)  reported that, despite a worldwide economic downturn, 2008 was the most successful year for tall building construction in history, both in terms of skyscrapers built and average height achieved. Furthermore, structures are expected to continue to rise across the globe, particularly in Asia and the Middle East, to the point that the world's current tallest building (Taipei 101) is likely to be in 20th place by 2020.
"Numerous examples from history demonstrate that tall buildings are frequently conceived at the economic height of a market and, due to the time required to construct them, completed during recessions," said Antony Wood, executive director of CTBUH. "Though the speed of tall building construction may cycle with the markets, the overall trend is for the number of high rises to increase over the next decade and to continue to reach skyward as we eventually emerge from recession. For the bravest of developers with good financial backing, now is actually the best time to start a new skyscraper project—labor and materials are cheap and the project is likely to be delivered in an economic upswing again."
Buildings that made CTBUH's list of "Ten Tallest Buildings Completed in 2008"  average 1,048 feet in height. China's Shanghai World Financial Center tops the list as the world's tallest building completed in 2008, at 1,614 feet.
CTBUH's data also show that the tallest buildings in the world are likely to increase in height, regardless of economic cycles. In its newly released list predicting the "Tallest 20 Buildings in 2020,"  CTBUH surmises that today's iconic supertall buildings, such as the Petronas Towers, the Sears Tower, and the Empire State Building, will fall off the list within a decade or two.
CTBUH also reports a seismic shift in the location of tall building construction over the last two decades. About 20 years ago, the world's future tallest buildings would have been predicted to be in North America, of steel construction, and contain office space. Today, they are more likely to be in Asia or the Middle East (there are more tall buildings in Asia than in North America), be constructed of concrete, and function as residential or mixed-use facilities.