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44 of the world’s 72 tallest buildings are cheating

Beautiful Blanket Of Fog Covers Dubai Residents in these high-rise blocks really do have their heads in the clouds - as the top of their buildings can just be seen poking out above a thick fog. Photographer Shiva Menon snapped the Dubai skyline from above the fog in his apartment on the 52nd floor of the MBK Tower. But the bed of fog was so dense it was impossible to see the horizon or even ground below. Instead, the tops of the buildings in the downtown Business Bay area - including the luxury Burj Al Arab hotel - appear to rise eerily from the fog. Many of the buildings are still under construction. Shiva, 37, from Dubai, took the photographs at around 7.30am before the early morning mist had a chance to clear. He said: "The sea of mist was caused by a natural phenomena. "Every year around this time the temperature begins to drop and humidity meets cooler air, forming the 'rolling fog'. "As the sun rises it burns away the mist to reveal the desert once again. "The thick white fog develops overnight as a result of the disparity between high temperatures and humidity during the day and the drop of the mercury during the night." The fog - which floats around 30 metres above the ground - is only this thick on a few days each year, usually between September and November. However, on other days it is still "prominent" enough to affect visibility and traffic in the Emirate state. Shiva added: "I was able to capture the scene with its actual essence, serenity and uniqueness. "It was totally surreal and felt like I was in a completely different galaxy. "It was quiet mesmerizing and a very calmly experience. A very gorgeous scene."
AP Photo/Shiva Menon/Solent News/Rex Features
There’s a lot of puff built into the world’s tallest buildings.
  • Gwynn Guilford
By Gwynn Guilford


ChinaPublished This article is more than 2 years old.
Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat

It turns out that most of the world’s tallest buildings are doing the architectural equivalent of wearing platform shoes. That is, they’re scraping skies courtesy of dozens—sometimes hundreds—of meters of “vanity height,” says a new report (pdf) by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), first spotted by io9. That’s the term CTBUH uses to describe the distance between the highest floor occupied and the top of the building. Here are some of the report’s most startling facts:

61% of the world’s supertall buildings need vanity height to qualify

It turns out that 61% of the world’s “supertall” buildings—those over 300 meters (984 feet)—wouldn’t be so super if not for their vanity height. China’s 390-meter CITIC Plaza, in Guangzhou, is the tallest building to be knocked off the list if vanity height is discounted. (It would shrink to 296 meters.)

Who’s the vainest of them all?

With a vanity height of 39% of its total, the Burj al Arab in Dubai is the vainest of the supertall buildings. On the other hand, Dubai also has the least vain supertall building; a mere 1% of the tower known as The Index counts as vanity height (it lacks a spire).

If you broaden the search to buildings that are simply tall, Moscow’s Ukraina Hotel is the vainest of them all; 42% of its 206 meters comes from vanity space.

Reuters/Gary Hershorn
Vain sisters: the New York Times Tower on the left, Bank of America Tower on the right.

New York City is really vain

When One World Trade Center is completed in 2014, New York City will have three of the “tallest 10 Vanity Heights,” says CTBUH. Bank of America Tower has 36% vanity height, while the New York Times Tower has 31%. Just shy of 30% of One World Trade Center is slated to be unoccupied.

So is the UAE

The United Arab Emirates’ 19 supertall buildings have, on average, vanity heights of 19%, followed by China’s average of 14% for its 24 buildings. And while only 42% of China’s 24 supertalls wouldn’t qualify as supertall without their vanity heights, 68% of UAE’s 19 wouldn’t.

Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat

But even without its vanity height, the Burj Khalifa still wins

As CTBUH points out, if the vanity height portion of the Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, were a standalone building in Europe, at 244 meters it would be the continent’s 11th-tallest building. But even if you’re counting height based solely on the highest occupied floor, the Burj Khalifa would still win:

Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat

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