What was considered a skyscraper in the late 1800’s would barely be called a high-rise today. As building taller and taller becomes the norm, the average height of skyscrapers goes up. As that happens, people come up with new terms. Until the late 1800’s, skyscraper referring to a very tall building wasn’t a thing. Until the last couple of decades, a couple of more modern terms did not exist; supertall and megatall.

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What constitutes a skyscraper?

The term skyscraper is generally used for a building over 10 storeys and sometimes for buildings taller than 164 feet or 50 meters. Skyscrapers generally share the common feature of having a steel framework that supports curtain walls, rather than using load-bearing walls which is done in conventional construction. Early skyscrapers were bigger than any building around (such as the Home Insurance Building in Chicago which was 138 feet or 42 meters), yet by today’s standards for skyscrapers seems like something of a joke. That is because of the number of enormous skyscrapers being built each year is increasing and we are starting to even build beyond one kilometer. Just let that fact sink in and think about how far we’ve come since 1885. For information on where the word “skyscraper” comes from, click here to see our blog post on the etymology of the word “skyscraper.”

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What constitutes as a supertall skyscraper? How many are there?

A supertall skyscraper is above the height of 984 feet or 300 meters. Since 2010, the number of supertall skyscrapers has jumped from 50 to over 100. The first supertall skyscraper was the Chrysler Building in New York. The current tallest supertall skyscraper (that is fully complete) is One World Trade Center at 1,776 feet or 541 meters.

What constitutes as a megatall skyscraper? How many are there?

A megatall skyscraper is above the height of 1,969 feet or 600 meters. There are much fewer of those, however, the number is constantly growing. There are currently 3 that have been fully completed (all built in 2009 and later), with one expected to be finished this year (Ping An Finance Centre in China). The three that exist are Abraj Al-Bait Clock Tower (Saudi Arabia), Shanghai Tower (China), and Burj Khalifa (United Arab Emirates). There are at least four more planned to be built by 2020, including two more in China (Suzhou Zhongnan Center and Wuhan Greenland Center), one more in Saudi Arabia (Jeddah Tower, expected to be over one kilometer tall), and one in Malaysia (KL118).

Skyscraper Height Milestones

  • First Skyscraper: Home Insurance Building (USA) (1884)

  • First Skyscraper to Reach 100 Meters: Manhattan Life Insurance Building (USA) (1894)

  • First Skyscraper to Reach 200 Meters: Metropolitan Life Tower (USA) (1909)

  • First Supertall Skyscraper: Chrysler Building (USA) (1930)

  • First Skyscraper to Reach 400 Meters: World Trade Center (USA) (1972)

  • First Skyscraper to Reach 500 Meters: Taipei 101 (Taiwan) (2004)

  • First Skyscraper to Reach 600 Meters: Burj Khalifa (United Arab Emirates) (2009)

  • First Skyscraper EXPECTED to Reach 1000 Meters: Jeddah Tower (Saudi Arabia) (2019)


 Barak Bacharach, SkySaver Content Manager