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Another giant for the record books

China's tallest building nears completion in Shanghai

Soaring economies and soaring skyscrapers usually go hand in hand. That's certainly the case in China, where work is nearing completion on what will soon be the country's tallest building, and the second tallest in the entire world.

Image courtesy of Shanghai Tower Construction and Development Co., Ltd. Rendering by Gensler.
Image courtesy of Shanghai Tower Construction and Development Co., Ltd. Rendering by Gensler.

The 125 story Shanghai Tower will reach 2,073 feet when construction is finished early next year. That's head and shoulders above the Empire State Building, which tops out at 1,454 feet.

Since its topping-off ceremony during the summer, Shanghai Tower has figured prominently in the city's skyline. It has two skyscraper neighbors: the 88-story Jin Mao Tower and the 93-story Shanghai World Financial Center.

5.6 million square feet of interior space

The tower is going up in the heart of the city's Lujiazui financial district, and when finished will include a hotel, convention space, a museum, recreational facilities and enough offices for 16,000 people. Interior space will total 5.6 million square feet, serviced by 143 elevators that will travel at up to 40 miles an hour.

Image courtesy of Shanghai Tower Construction and Development Co., Ltd. Rendering by Gensler.
Image courtesy of Shanghai Tower Construction and Development Co., Ltd. Rendering by Gensler.

City planners regard Shanghai Tower as a key part of their effort to make the city a major international financial center and free trade zone. Developers are specifically hoping to attract global financial institutions, and so have designed special large spaces in the tower that could eventually accommodate trading floors. Another potential renter target: Hedge funds, whom Shanghai city officials hope to attract with special tax breaks.

Out-pacing the west in the skyscraper race

While China's construction boom is tapering off as the overall economy cools, the pace of it has nonetheless been astonishing. In two years, China is expected to have 800 buildings that are more than 65 stories high. That's quadruple the number in the United States. However, China does not appear slated any time soon to be able to claim the world's tallest building, a record now held by Dubai's Burj Khalifa, at 2,722 feet.

Developers in Changsha, located in Hunan, had developed plans for "Sky City One," which would have been 20 feet higher than the Dubai structure. Groundbreaking took place earlier in the year, but construction was halted in the summer, in part because of engineering concerns. Sky City's developers had planned on finishing the building in just three months through the use of pre-fabricated modules assembled offsite. The future of the project is still uncertain.

There is less uncertainty about the Kingdom Tower, currently under construction in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The building is slated to be roughly 3,200 feet high; its exact height is for the time being kept a secret. Completion is set for 2015.

The tapered, curving exterior of Shanghai Tower was the brainchild of Chinese-born architect Jun Xia, who worked in connection with the San Francisco-based architectural firm Gensler. It's built on the site of a one-time golf driving range, and work on it has been underway since 2008.

Despite its great size, Shanghai Tower is expected to have minimal environmental impact. It is fully compliant with all LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) specifications, and is being built with a number of innovative "green design" features, including a special glass exterior that will significantly reduce the tower's need for heating and cooling. It also has its own wind turbines, which will generate much of the building's electricity.