Achieving world records in construction is something that rarely occurs. Whether by chance, coincidence, good luck or by sheer tenacity, aligning design, developer and localised ambition with adequate funding, expertise and manpower is something that comes along once in a lifetime for a select few developers and contractors.

Burj Khalifa
Burj Khalifa

The criteria for inclusion in this list was simple: projects need to have been completed, or be close to completion and functional in some way. We’ve not bothered with projects still on the drawing board, or those that are being built – we’ve just dealt with those that exist, and those that are recognised as leading the world in their categories. We’ve also listed current record holders, not those that are set to surpass them. The tallest all residential tower, for example, is Australia’s Q1 Tower but it’s set to be superceeded by several projects fairly soon – but as they have not been finished, the Q1 Tower retains the title as world’s tallest.

We didn’t have to look far for inspiration for this collection of world toppers. Dubai still ranks as one of the world’s tallest cities – with 51 skyscrapers all standing over 200m high, matching New York’s tally. Hong Kong has 52 but Dubai has the Burj Khalifa, and six others that stretch to over 300m – including the world’s tallest hotel (building used exclusively as a hotel), the Rose Tower, at 333m and 72-storeys.

The Middle East is home to some of the largest and most ambitious projects ever undertaken, but China’s sheer size and ambition to dominate industry means it too has embarked on some deeply impressive construction projects. With the eyes of the world on it, China’s rush to create enough power to fuel its industry while cutting greenhouse emissions has been impressive. It consumes more power than the US but, per capita, produces far fewer emissions.

World’s tallest building:

The Burj Khalifa
No great surprises here. The Burj Khalifa burst on to the international scene earlier this year with a massive fanfare, fireworks and festivities at the dawn of the new decade after a much anticipated build. The fanfare wasn’t without merit: the building smashing almost every record in the books – and by a considerable margin.

What’s not commonly know is that the Burj actually bagged several world-topping records when it was opened (see below), and setting new heights for others to surpass.

While other supertall projects, including Kuwait’s kilometre high City of Silk, Jeddah’s proposed Kingdom Tower (1001) and Bahrain’s Murjan Tower (1022m) are in the planning stages, they don’t yet exist. Even if they were to be started soon, the length of time it would take to reach the Burj Khalifa’s lofty heights means the Dubai super-structure would reserve its place at the top of the world for some time yet.

According to The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, Taipei 101, at 508m, is the next tallest skyscraper and retains the record for being the world’s tallest all-office tower. Toronto’s 553m landmark CN Tower, and other towers of its type, were excluded from the list because they’re not habitable buildings.The building with the highest observation deck in the world is the Shanghai World Financial Centre (at 474m). The Burj Khalifa is second, at 452m – but still holds the record for the highest outside observation deck.

The World’s Top 10 Tallest Habitable Buildings
Rank Building City Country Height
1 Burj Khalifa Dubai UAE 828m
2 Taipei 101 Taipei Taiwan 508m
3 Shanghai World Financial Centre Shanghai China 492m
4 International Commerce Centre Hong Kong China 484m
5= Petronas Tower 1 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia 454m
5= Petronas Tower 2 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia 454m
7 Nanjing Greenland Financial Centre Nanjing China 450m
8 Willis Tower Chicago USA 442m
9 Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago USA 423m
10 Jin Mao Building Shanghai China 421m

Project: Burj Khalifa
Location: Dubai, UAE
Work started: January 2004 (site excavation)
Completed: January 2010 (official launch)
Developer: Emaar Properties
Contractors: Samsung, BESIX and Arabtec
Architect: Adrian Smith, Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM)
Height: 828m
Floors (above ground level): 162
Cost: $1.6bn
Nearest rival: Taipei 101 (508m)
– 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; world’s highest mosque (158th floor)
– World’s highest swimming pool (76th floor)
– World’s highest occupied floor.

Fast facts
45,000 — Amount, in cubic metres, of concrete used in the foundations
58 — Number of elevators
900 — Number of apartments within the building
309,473m3 — Gross floor area within the building