Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
CTBUH changes height criteria, Burj Dubai height increases


CTBUH Height Committee discusses the height criteria at the Trump Tower in Chicago      tallest 10 buildings in the world according to architectural top
tallest 10 buildings in the world according to heights occupiable floor
tallest 10 buildings in the world according to tip
CTBUH Height Committee discusses the height criteria at the Trump Tower in Chicago (September 2009) CTBUH diagrams displaying the current tallest 10 buildings in the world according to three height categories. Click on a diagram to enlarge.
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Chicago - November 17, 2009

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH)—the international body that arbitrates on tall building height and determines the title of “The World’s Tallest Building”—has announced a change to its height criteria, as a reflection of recent developments with several supertall buildings. 

The new criteria wording—“Height is measured from the level of the lowest, significant, open-air, pedestrian entrance to…” allows for the recognition of the increasing numbers of multi-use tall buildings with often several different entrances at different levels, whilst also accommodating buildings constructed in non-traditional urban or suburban locations. The CTBUH Height Committee has determined that the previous description of where to measure tall building height from—“Height is measured from the sidewalk outside the main entrance to…” is now no longer sufficient.

This will have an impact on both the height of tall buildings and their relative international height rankings. Burj Dubai, set to open as the world’s tallest building in January 2010, will now be measured from the lowest of its three main entrances (which opens into the entrance lobby for the tower’s corporate suite office function), while the recently completed Trump International Hotel & Towers in Chicago will be measured from the lower, publicly accessible Chicago Riverwalk. In the case of Trump, this additional 27 feet means that it will surpass the Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai to occupy the rank of 6th tallest on the current list of completed buildings.

“Beginning in 2007, with the knowledge that Burj Dubai would be significantly taller than any structure ever built, the CTBUH Height Committee met to review the criteria by which we recognize and rank the height of buildings,” said Peter Weismantle, Chair of the CTBUH Height Committee and Director of Supertall Building Technology at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture in Chicago. “As one might guess, with the committee being made up of architects, engineers, contractors, developers, building owners and academics, a variety of opinions and views were expressed. The resulting revisions almost two years later reflect a general consensus of the committee in recognizing the most recent trends in tall building development around the world.”

Also in response to the changing designs and forms of tall buildings, the Height Committee has elected to discard its previous “Height to Roof” category. “The roof category just doesn’t make sense anymore,” said CTBUH Executive Director Antony Wood.  “In the era of the flat-topped modernist tower, a clearly defined roof could usually be identified, but in today’s tall building world—which is increasingly adopting elaborate forms, spires, parapets and other features at the top of the building—it is becoming difficult to determine a ‘roof’ at all, even less so to measure to it.”

The tallest 10 buildings in the world as of November 2009 are shown in the diagrams above, ranked according to the three height categories now recognized by CTBUH. These are: (i) Height to Architectural Top, measured to the topmost architectural feature of the building including spires, but not including antennae, signage, flag poles or other functional-technical equipment; (ii) Height to Highest Occupied Floor, measured to the level of the highest, consistently occupied floor in the building (thus not including service or mechanical areas which experience occasional maintenance access); and (iii) Height to Tip, measured to the highest point of the building, irrespective of material or function of the highest element. 

To download the press release, click here.

For further information and high-resolution images, contact

Jan Klerks
Research & Communications Manager
Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Illinois Institute of Technology, S.R. Crown Hall
3360 South State Street, Chicago, IL  60616-3796, USA

phone: 1 (312) 567-3286, fax: 1 (312) 567-3820

To find out more about how the CTBUH defines and measures tall buildings click here.