Infographic: The Global Rush to Build New Skyscrapers
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The Global Rush to Build New Skyscrapers

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The Global Rush to Build New Skyscrapers

The Global Rush to Build New Skyscrapers

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As the creator of today’s visualization, Alberto Lucas López, points out, “the world’s tallest buildings have acted as barometers”.

Another way of putting it? Our biggest architectural accomplishments are highly visible symbols of what society values most, and those values have changed over time. Today, the paramount belief system in many parts of the world is in capitalism, and there is no more potent marker of the economic might than fantastically tall commercial skyscrapers.

Today’s visualization is an effective way to take in the mind-bending scale of the newest generation of megatall buildings. It’s headlined by Jeddah Tower, a skyscraper currently under construction in Saudi Arabia that will smash the one kilometer mark when it’s completed in 2019.

Cities are Growing Up

In general, only very large cities have the resources to build and support extremely tall buildings.

With the explosion of urbanization around the world and developing economies asserting themselves in high profile ways, the stage is set for a global skyscraper boom.

skyscraper construction stats

In the last two years, 39 skyscrapers taller than 300m have been constructed, with five of the them eclipsing the height of the Empire State Building.

Global skyscraper construction has increased a whopping 402% since 2000.

High-rise Hot Spots

China
Nearly every sizeable Chinese city has skyscrapers under construction, and the numbers are staggering. Since 2012, China has added 38 skyscrapers over 300m (~1,000 ft) in height, and there are another 16 skyscrapers on the way in 2018.

In particular, the Pearl River Delta megaregion, which is anchored by Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou, has seen an astonishing commercial construction boom. Today, 20 of the 100 tallest buildings on earth are located in just this one urban megaregion of China.

China’s Top 10 Tallest Buildings

Building NameCityHeight (m)CompletedUse
Shanghai TowerShanghai6322015hotel / office
Ping An Finance CenterShenzhen599.12017office
Guangzhou CTF Finance CentreGuangzhou5302016hotel / res / office
Shanghai World Financial CenterShanghai4922008hotel / office
International Commerce CentreHong Kong4842010hotel / office
Zifeng TowerNanjing4502010hotel / office
KK100Shenzhen441.82011hotel / office
Guangzhou International Finance CenterGuangzhou438.62010hotel / office
Jin Mao TowerShanghai420.51999hotel / office
Two International Finance CentreHong Kong4122003office

In total, 46 of the world’s 100 tallest skyscrapers are now located in China, and that number is sure to increase in coming years.

United Arab Emirates
Construction has been relentless in UAE for decades, and much of that development has been vertically-oriented. Today, Dubai is home to nearly 1,000 high-rise buildings, and there are 13 projects currently under construction that will hit or exceed the 300m mark.

UAE’s Top 10 Tallest Buildings

Building NameCityHeight (m)CompletedUse
Burj KhalifaDubai8282010hotel / res / office
Marina 101Dubai4252017residential / hotel
Princess TowerDubai413.42012residential
23 MarinaDubai392.42012residential
Burj Mohammed Bin RashidAbu Dhabi381.22014residential
Elite ResidenceDubai380.52012residential
The Address BoulevardDubai3702017res / hotel / retail
Almas TowerDubai3602008office
JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai Tower 1Dubai355.42012hotel
JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai Tower 2Dubai355.42013hotel

Russia
While the skylines of many European cities are conspicuously low-rise, an exception to that rule is in Moscow’s International Business Centre, where four 300m+ towers have been completed since 2012.

Russia’s Top 10 Tallest Buildings

Building NameCityHeight (m)CompletedUse
Vostok TowerMoscow373.82016residential / office
OKO - Residential TowerMoscow353.62015residential / hotel
Mercury City TowerMoscow338.82013residential / office
Stalnaya VershinaMoscow308.92015res / hotel / office
Capital City Moscow TowerMoscow301.82010residential
Naberezhnaya Tower Block CMoscow268.42007office
Triumph PalaceMoscow264.12005residential / hotel
Capital City St. Petersburg TowerMoscow257.22010office
Evolution TowerYekaterinburg2462015residential
Zapad TowerMoscow242.52008residential / office

What about the United States?

In the early 20th century, the United States was the undisputed champion of skyscraper construction, but that has tapered off dramatically. In fact, only six commercial towers over 300m have been constructed in the last 20 years.

The exception may be the city that started it all: New York. There are currently 30 skyscrapers under construction in NYC, fueled in part by a red-hot luxury real estate market.

America’s Top 10 Tallest Buildings (Under Construction)

Building NameCityHeight (m)Target DateUse
Central Park TowerNew York City472.42020res / hotel / retail
111 West 57th StreetNew York City435.32019residential
One VanderbiltNew York City4272021office
30 Hudson YardsNew York City386.62019office
Vista TowerChicago362.92020residential / hotel
Comcast Technology CenterPhiladelphia341.72018office / hotel
3 World Trade CenterNew York City328.92018residential / hotel
Salesforce TowerSan Francisco326.12018office
9 DeKalb AvenueNew York City324.92020office
53 West 53rdNew York City3202019res / office / retail

Philadelphia and San Francisco will soon have new additions to their skylines as Comcast and Saleforce complete their flagship construction projects. If current construction numbers are any indication, America’s love affair with the skyscraper may be reignited in urban centers across the country.

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Green

Mapped: Human Impact on the Earth’s Surface

This detailed map looks at where humans have (and haven’t) modified Earth’s terrestrial environment. See human impact in incredible detail.

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human impact on earths surface

Mapped: Human Impact on the Earth’s Surface

With human population on Earth approaching 8 billion (we’ll likely hit that milestone in 2023), our impact on the planet is becoming harder to ignore with each passing year.

Our cities, infrastructure, agriculture, and pollution are all forms of stress we place on the natural world. This map, by David M. Theobald et al., shows just how much of the planet we’ve now modified. The researchers estimate that 14.6% or 18.5 million km² of land area has been modified – an area greater than Russia.

Defining Human Impact

Human impact on the Earth’s surface can take a number of different forms, and researchers took a nuanced approach to classifying the “modifications” we’ve made. In the end, 10 main stressors were used to create this map:

  1. Built-Up Areas: All of our cities and towns
  2. Agriculture: Areas devoted to crops and pastures
  3. Energy and extractive resources: Primarily locations where oil and gas are extracted
  4. Mines and quarries: Other ground-based natural resource extraction, excluding oil and gas
  5. Power plants: Areas where energy is produced – both renewable and non-renewable
  6. Transportation and service corridors: Primarily roads and railways
  7. Logging: This measures commodity-based forest loss (excludes factors like wildfire and urbanization)
  8. Human intrusion: Typically areas adjacent to population centers and roads that humans access
  9. Natural systems modification: Primarily modifications to water flow, including reservoir creation
  10. Pollution: Phenomenon such as acid rain and fog caused by air pollution

The classification descriptions above are simplified. See the methodology for full descriptions and calculations.

A Closer Look at Human Impact on the Earth’s Surface

To help better understand the level of impact humans can have on the planet, we’ll take a closer look three regions, and see how the situation on the ground relates to these maps.

Land Use Contrasts: Egypt

Almost all of Egypt’s population lives along the Nile and its delta, making it an interesting place to examine land use and human impact.

egypt land use impact zone

The towns and high intensity agricultural land following the river stand out clearly on the human modification map, while the nearby desert shows much less impact.

Intensive Modification: Netherlands

The Netherlands has some of the heavily modified landscapes on Earth, so the way it looks on this map will come as no surprise.

netherlands land use impact zone

The area shown above, Rotterdam’s distinctive port and surround area, renders almost entirely in colors at the top of the human modification scale.

Resource Extraction: West Virginia

It isn’t just cities and towns that show up clearly on this map, it’s also the areas we extract our raw materials from as well. This mountainous region of West Virginia, in the United States, offers a very clear visual example.

west virginia land use impact zone

The mountaintop removal method of mining—which involves blasting mountains in order to retrieve seams of bituminous coal—is common in this region, and mine sites show up clearly in the map.

You can explore the interactive version of this map yourself to view any area on the globe. What surprises you about these patterns of human impact?

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Politics

Interactive Map: Tracking Global Hunger and Food Insecurity

Every day, hunger affects more than 700 million people. This live map from the UN highlights where hunger is hitting hardest around the world.

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The World Hunger Map

Interactive Map: Tracking Global Hunger and Food Insecurity

Hunger is still one the biggest—and most solvable—problems in the world.

Every day, more than 700 million people (8.8% of the world’s population) go to bed on an empty stomach, according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

The WFP’s HungerMap LIVE displayed here tracks core indicators of acute hunger like household food consumption, livelihoods, child nutritional status, mortality, and access to clean water in order to rank countries.

The World Hunger Map

After sitting closer to 600 million from 2014 to 2019, the number of people in the world affected by hunger increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, 155 million people (2% of the world’s population) experienced acute hunger, requiring urgent assistance.

The Fight to Feed the World

The problem of global hunger isn’t new, and attempts to solve it have making headlines for decades.

On July 13, 1985, at Wembley Stadium in London, Prince Charles and Princess Diana officially opened Live Aid, a worldwide rock concert organized to raise money for the relief of famine-stricken Africans.

The event was followed by similar concerts at other arenas around the world, globally linked by satellite to more than a billion viewers in 110 nations, raising more than $125 million ($309 million in today’s dollars) in famine relief for Africa.

But 35+ years later, the continent still struggles. According to the UN, from 12 countries with the highest prevalence of insufficient food consumption in the world, nine are in Africa.

Country % Population Affected by HungerPopulation (millions)Region
Afghanistan 🇦🇫93%40.4Asia
Somalia 🇸🇴68%12.3Africa
Burkina Faso 🇧🇫61%19.8Africa
South Sudan 🇸🇸60%11.0Africa
Mali 🇲🇱60%19.1Africa
Sierra Leone 🇸🇱55%8.2Africa
Syria 🇸🇾55%18.0Middle East
Niger 🇳🇪55%22.4Africa
Lesotho 🇱🇸50%2.1Africa
Guinea 🇬🇳48%12.2Africa
Benin 🇧🇯47%11.5Africa
Yemen 🇾🇪44%30.0Middle East

Approximately 30 million people in Africa face the effects of severe food insecurity, including malnutrition, starvation, and poverty.

Wasted Leftovers

Although many of the reasons for the food crisis around the globe involve conflicts or environmental challenges, one of the big contributors is food waste.

According to the United Nations, one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. This amounts to about 1.3 billion tons of wasted food per year, worth approximately $1 trillion.

All the food produced but never eaten would be sufficient to feed two billion people. That’s more than twice the number of undernourished people across the globe. Consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa each year.

Solving Global Hunger

While many people may not be “hungry” in the sense that they are suffering physical discomfort, they may still be food insecure, lacking regular access to enough safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development.

Estimates of how much money it would take to end world hunger range from $7 billion to $265 billion per year.

But to tackle the problem, investments must be utilized in the right places. Specialists say that governments and organizations need to provide food and humanitarian relief to the most at-risk regions, increase agricultural productivity, and invest in more efficient supply chains.

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