The Physics
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Height of the Tallest Building

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Bibliographic Entry Result
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Neff, Robert F., and Paul W. Zitewitz. Physics Principles and Problems. Ohio: Merrill, 1995: 117. "The Sears Tower in Chicago rises 443 m above the pavement. It is the tallest building in the world." 443 m
"Buildings, Bridges, And Tunnels." The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2002. New York: World Almanac Educational Group, Inc, 2002. "Tallest Building: Petronas Towers I, II, 1998, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia height 1,483 ft stories 88. Tallest Freestanding Tower: (under construction) Inmost Telkom Tower, Jakarta, Indonesia, height 1,831 ft 2001." 452 m, 558 m
Campi, Mario. Skyscrapers: An Architectural Type of Modern Urbanism. Basel, Switzerland: Birkhauser, 2000. "Petronas Towers: Completion 1997 Height 452 m (1,482 ft)." 452 m
Malcolm, Andrew. "A New High for Disco in Toronto's Tower." The New York Times. (10, October, 1979): C18. "Toronto, for three years this city has laid claim to the highest freestanding structure in the world, an 1,815 foot concrete spike looming so far above downtown that the too often disappears in the clouds." 553 m
Tomorrow's Towers. Dateline, December 1999. "The Shanghai World Financial Center - 1,518 ft/463 m … 7 South Dearborn. Chicago - 1,550 ft/472 m … Maharishi Tower of World Peace - 1,600 ft/488 m … Kowloon MTR Tower - 1,803 ft/549.5 M." 463 m, 472 m, 488 m, 549.5 m

The height of the tallest building has been increasing over the years. As more buildings are proposed to be construct, even fact books cannot keep track of which to name the tallest building.

Many people consider "buildings" as structures that are habitable. Since 1974, the commercial Sears Tower in Chicago, United States, was named the tallest building with the height of 443 meters, without antennas. However, in 1998, the Petronas towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, became the world's tallest office building. Both of the Petronas Towers stand 452 meters tall, including top poles. Even though the Sears Towers, without antennas, is taller than the Petronas Towers, without poles, experts include the poles in measurement and not Sear's antennas because the poles are considered an important architectural design to the towers. This makes the Petronas Towers the tallest buildings in the world.

Various buildings have been proposed to succeed this height. In the fall of 1999, the plans to build The Shanghai World Financial Center was announced. The building will be 463 meters tall. In Chicago, United States, city officials have approved plans to build 7 South Dearborn, housing offices and condos. The building will soar to 472 meters in height. A spiritual master in India plan to create the Maharishi Tower of World Peace. This pyramidal tower will contain offices, hotels, apartments and shops. The proposed height is 488 meters. Also expected is the Kowloon MTR Tower in Hong Kong, China. The 102-story building will reach the height of 549.5 meters. Yet, only up to 550 meters of the tower will actually be habitable.

On the other hand, it is debatable to consider freestanding towers, inhabitable, as "buildings". The famous CN tower is often stated as the tallest building in the world. Located in Toronto, Canada, completed in 1976, the tower stands at 553 meters (including antennas). But, the proposed Indosat Telkom Tower, a telecommunication skyscraper being built in Jakarta, Indonesia will be the tallest freestanding tower with the height of 558 meters, once it is completed

Ruby Choi -- 2002

Bibliographic Entry  Result
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World Geography."The culture geography of Southeast Asia 'Malaysia'." Glencoe McGraw Hill: Ch.30, 2003. Web Activity Lesson Plan. "Its busy streets, vibrant markets, and modern office buildings, including the 1,453-foot-tall Petronas towers, are evidence of progress and Malaysia's leap in the future." 442.9 m
"Modern Architecture." Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99.1999 ed.CD-rom. Microsoft, 1998. "… the Petronas Towers, in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, is the world's tallest building. Each tower stands 451.9 m … tall at its pinacle." 451.9 m
The Internet for Civil Engineers: KIAT.NET - Petronas Twin Towers - From Vision to Reality. 29 May, 2002. "Moreover, the sheer height - 452.9 m, about a quarter of Gunung Tahan's height which stands at 2,186 m - and weight off 88 storey twin towers raised innumerable challenges." 451.9 m
Huntington, Whitney C. "Building Construction." Collier's Encyclopedia.1968 ed. Vol.4. Crowell-Collier, 1968: p.683. "The tallest building in the world is the Empire State Building in New York City, which has … and a height of 1,472 ft." 448.7 m
World Map/Statistics/Top 100 Skyscrapers. 29 May, 2002.
# Building City Height Floor
1 Petronas Tower 1 Kuala Lampur 452 m 88
2 Petronas Tower 2 Kuala Lampur 452 m 88
452 m

The topic of the highest building in the world is one of great controversy. One of the main debates is about the standards considered when measuring the heights of these immense buildings. In 1997, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats decided on four factors in judging building height; the height to the structural top, to the highest floor, to the top of the roof, and finally the height to the top of an antenna. The Petronas Twin Towers of Kuala Lampur, Malaysia is generally accepted as the world's tallest building. The towers rise to an incredible 451.9 m and wins in the structural top category.

Structural height means the elevation from the base of the building to its architectural top, which includes decorative structures but not antennas. Because the towers have spires on top, they are able to win in the category. However, if antennas had also been accounted for, the Sears tower in Chicago would win with a height of 526 M. Since the Sears tower also has the highest occupied floor height and the highest roof, many people believe this must be the highest building in the world.

However, some people disagree with both of these arguments. For example, many Canadians feel that their 553 m CN Tower is the tallest building in the world. This raises the question of the definition of a building, which has been traditionally accepted as a closed structure made for occupancy. This implies that the CN tower and many other enormous structures such as TV/ oil towers are excluded from the competition. As the controversy continues, architects and engineers also continue in the race to build even higher.

Click here for the data set.

The graph above was produced by using's top 100 tallest buildings of the world according to structural height. The graph shows the building heights versus the ranking given each building from 1 to 100. The data points best fit is a power curve y = A*x^B, with the power B being -0.162. The graph makes it clear to acknowledge that the height difference between the buildings with the highest ranks are much greater compared to those building with lower ranks. The world's tallest buildings if placed side by side would physically form the shape of this power curve. Also, from the density of the points on the graph, it can be seen that there are fewer numbers of buildings in the top ranks. The lower ranks show clustered points indicating that there are many of these buildings which share similar heights.

Sabrina Khan -- 2002

Bibliographic Entry Result
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Taipei 101, "Taipei 101 will hold 3 of the World's Tallest Building titles when it is topped out: Tallest to structural top, Tallest to roof and Highest occupied floor …. Taipei 101 now holds the title of the world's tallest building measured to the roof, replacing the Sears Tower."
Technical Data
Height 509 m 1,671 ft
509 m

Editor's Supplement -- 2003

Bibliographic Entry Result
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Facts & Figures, Burj Khalifa, Emaar Properties PJSC At over 828 metres (2,716.5 feet) and more than 160 stories, Burj Khalifa holds the following records:
  • Tallest building in the world
  • Tallest free-standing structure in the world
  • Highest number of stories in the world
  • Highest occupied floor in the world
  • Highest outdoor observation deck in the world
  • Elevator with the longest travel distance in the world
  • Tallest service elevator in the world
828 m

Editor's Supplement -- 2015

Data and Story Project
    1. Altitude of the highest toy balloon flight
    2. Angular speed of the earth
    3. Height of the tallest building
    4. Highest critical temperature superconductor
    5. Mass of a dog
    6. Number of births in the US
    7. Number of crimes in New York state
    8. Number of pages in a science review book
    9. Number of people in the US
    10. Salary of a baseball player