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Video: A Timelapse of Dubai’s Astonishing Growth

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Dubai’s transformation from a fishing village to a global real estate hub has been nothing short of remarkable. From having the world’s tallest building to man-made islands in the shape of a world map, the U.A.E.’s most populous city has never shied away from ambitious construction projects.

Today’s motion graphic video, from Knight Frank, is a unique overview of Dubai’s half-century long growth spurt.

Ambition into Action

Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, summed up the ambition of his people in a quote:

Dubai will never settle for anything less than first place.

Indeed, the city’s economic growth has been nearly unparalleled over the past two decades. Unlike neighboring emirates, Dubai had a modest supply of oil and knew that diversifying their economy would be vital for future success.

As oil production leveled off in the early 1990s, the tourism industry ramped up. In 2002, reforms allowed foreigners to own real estate and that industry boomed overnight. Today, oil accounts for a minuscule 1% of Dubai’s GDP.

As the Middle East begins looking toward a post-oil economy, Dubai’s success provides an obvious example for other cities in the region to mimic.

Sky High Ambition

In addition to quirky attractions like the 250,000 sqft indoor ski hill, the desert city boasts a number of record-setting projects:

  • World’s tallest building – Burj Khalifa
  • World’s tallest hotel – JW Marriott Marquis Hotel
  • World’s largest shopping center – Dubai Mall
  • World’s largest indoor theme park – IMG Worlds of Adventure
  • World’s Busiest Airport (International Travelers) – Dubai International Airport
  • World’s longest fully automated metro network – Dubai Metro

Though Dubai is full of blockbuster development projects, the city’s urban form is perhaps best known for one specific attribute: height. For a city of only 3.0 million people, Dubai has a remarkable number of skyscrapers. In fact, the city trails only New York and Shanghai for the number of buildings taller than 150m (492ft).

dubai tower chart

For context, during the period of 2007–2014 Dubai essentially kept pace with high-rise development in the United States as a whole. (Dubai’s population is 0.9% the size of the United States.)

The B Word

Just as Dubai was hitting its stride, the global financial crisis blew in and choked the pipeline of money flowing into the growing city. In 2009, headlines around the world proclaimed that Dubai’s real estate bubble had finally burst.

Though the financial crisis was a setback, the city’s development industry has recovered admirably. Going into 2017, there were 11,600 active projects worth over $800 billion. As well, Expo 2020 is expected to add fuel to the twin engines of Dubai’s economy: real estate development and tourism.

With the U.A.E. set to further relax foreign ownership roles, the city’s economic prospects remain as sunny as its weather forecast.

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Upward Momentum: Charting a Year of Skyscraper Construction

Nearly 150 skyscrapers were completed around the world last year. Find out which cities and regions are growing skyward the fastest.

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Ever since the first towering spires broke through the clouds in New York and Chicago, skyscrapers have remained a potent symbol of economic might.

The tallest buildings require vast amounts of materials, expertise, and capital to make them a reality, but the cities that add these landmarks to their skylines gain prestige and send a powerful message to competing economic centers.

Skyscraper Construction in 2018

Where are the most skyscrapers popping up? Let’s take a look at regional hot-spots around the world.

Charting a Year of Skyscraper Construction
Note: For the purposes of this article, “skyscraper” will refer to buildings 656 feet (200 meters) or more in height.

China is Flying High

For well over two decades, China has led the world in skyscraper construction, and 2018 was no exception.

The country’s fixation on urban growth and continued economic success is producing tall buildings at a staggering rate. Last year, a mind-boggling 89 skyscrapers were completed in 28 different cities around China.

To put this building boom into perspective, China completed more skyscrapers in one year than New York City’s entire stock of 656ft and taller buildings.

Skyscrapers in China

In 2018, no city reached for the stars quite like Shenzhen. The city, which is a hub of China’s high-flying tech sector, now has the second-most skyscrapers in the world, surpassed only by Dubai.

Shenzhen isn’t just building a lot of skyscrapers, it’s building extremely tall ones too.

In 2017, for example, the ribbon was cut on the massive Ping An Finance Center, which is currently the 4th tallest building in the world. Last year alone, four new towers cracked the 1,000ft (300m) barrier.

Asia, Rising

While China’s scale is hard to beat, other cities in the region are also undergoing dramatic changes, particularly in Southeast Asia. Malaysia and Indonesia completed a combined 13 new skyscrapers, and the Vincom Landmark 81 was added to Ho Chi Minh City’s growing roster of unique skyscrapers.

While there are two skyscrapers under construction in Japan – one in Tokyo and one in Yokohama – none of them were completed last year.

A New Era of American Skyscrapers

After a two-decade lull in skyscraper construction, the United States is embracing taller buildings again. Last year alone, the U.S. added 14 new skyscrapers into the mix, particularly in New York City, where construction cranes dot the horizon. In the past decade, NYC has added 25 new skyscrapers to its iconic skyline.

This trend is showing no signs of slowing down. Between now and 2022, 44 skyscraper projects are expected to be completed in the United States, with the vast majority being built in the Big Apple.

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Infographic: The Anatomy of a Smart City

The city will remain the centerpiece of economic growth in the 21st century. Here’s how we’re using smart city technology to optimize them even further.

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The Anatomy of a Smart City

The Anatomy of a Smart City

There is no doubt that the city will be the defining feature of human geography for the 21st century.

Globally, there are 1.3 million people moving to cities each week – and by 2040, a staggering 65% of the world’s population will live in cities.

At the same time, the 600 biggest urban areas already account for 60% of global GDP, and this will only rise higher as cities become larger and more prosperous. In fact, experts estimate that up to 80% of future economic growth in developing regions will occur in cities alone.

The Smart City: A Necessary Step

As cities become an even more important driver of the global economy and wealth, it’s becoming crucial to ensure that they are optimized to maximize efficiency and sustainability, while enhancing the quality of life in each urban conglomeration.

Today’s infographic from Postscapes helps define the need for smart cities, and it also gives great examples of how technology can be applied in urban settings to facilitate cities that work better for their citizens.

Features of Tomorrow’s Cities

Smart cities will use low power sensors, wireless networks, and mobile-based applications to measure and optimize everything within cities.

Here are just some examples: (click below image to open full-size version)

How to Build Smarter Cities

Smart city solutions will fall into six broad categories, transforming the urban landscape:

1. Infrastructure
Smart lighting is one of the most important solutions that will be implemented in citywide infrastructure. While smart lighting sounds trivial at first glance, it’s worth noting that lighting alone consumes a whopping 19% of the world’s total electricity.

2. Buildings
Heating, energy usage, lighting, and ventilation will be managed and optimized by technology. Solar panels will be integrated into building design, replacing traditional materials. Fire detection and extinguishing is tailored to individual rooms.

3. Utilities
Smart grids (used for energy consumption monitoring and management), water leakage detection, and water potability monitoring are just some smart city aspects on the utilities side.

4. Transport
Intelligent, adaptive fast lanes and slow lanes (cycling, walking) will be implemented, while charging stations through the city will power EVs.

5. Environment
Air pollution control, renewable energy, and waste management solutions will make for greener cities. Rooftop gardens or side vegetation will be integrated into building designs, to help with insulation, provide oxygen, and absorb CO2.

6. Life
There will be citywide Wi-Fi for public use, while real-time updates will provide citizens information on traffic congestion, parking spaces, and other city amenities.

The Effect?

Cisco estimates that smarter cities will have impressive increases in efficiency: using many of the above concepts, cities can improve energy efficiency by 30% in 20 years.

Simultaneously, it’s estimated that the broad market for smart cities products and services will be worth $2.57 trillion by 2025, growing at a clip of 18.4% per year on average.

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