2020 saw 106 new skyscrapers (buildings that stand over 200 meters in height) compared to 133 in 2019. This structural decline takes its place as the lowest since 2014.
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) released this information last week, attributing project slowdowns to the COVID-19 pandemic. Construction stops occur in large, dense cities where skyscrapers are built.
CTBUH's report states that of all projects, only nine specifically blame the virus for the halt in progress; however, many assume that other projects are experiencing difficulties that relate indirectly to COVID-19, such as material shortages.
China also experienced a slow construction year, reporting 56 new buildings; this represents nearly 40% less than its 2018 total. Part of China's construction reduction can be blamed on a general building shut down due to a 2016 governmental decree calling for an end to "oversized, xenocentric, weird" architecture; this sent many builders and architects back to their drawing boards to reboot plans that were already underway. That said, at 56 completed towers, China accounts for more than half of all skyscrapers finished in 2020.
With 12 completed skyscrapers, Dubai took the top seat, removing China's powerhouse city Shenzen from the top spot for the first time since 2015.
The year's tallest buildings were built in New York City: the 472-meter Central Park Tower and the 427 meter One Vanderbilt. New York takes the crown from China, which has had the tallest building every year since 2015.
However, the report makes it clear that while the pandemic may have slowed down production, we are yet to see the full implications of the crisis. "As tall buildings are often lagging economic indicators, any chilling effect that economic conditions or work interruptions may have had on new project starts, or projects that were under construction in 2020 ... remains to be seen," the report reads. "It must be remembered, the economic crisis of 2008 was not reflected on skylines, in terms of lower completion rates, until 2010 and 2011."
Based on declines in skyscraper construction, affected by factors such as building materials availability, a stall in this industry sector could be a warning sign of more general, world economic hurdles to come within the next three years.