…but the latest issue of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat’s Journal is out (subscription required, but any good skyscraper nerd surely subscribes already?) and it includes a chart detailing the idea of “vanity height,” or the construction of functionless spires atop supertall buildings with the express aim of grabbing one height record or another. (Oh, hey, this issue also features The Bow in Calgary by my old firm…) And I’m pleased to report that they’ve included a page-long comment from me on the vanity height issue. Loyal readers will know the argument all too well, but just for the record:
The current criteria have unintentionally encouraged developers to build higher and higher spikes atop their buildings if they want to claim the title of tallest building in a country or city. In an era that demands greater efficiency and lower carbon footprints for its buildings this should be cause for some alarm, and refinement to the criteria.
To address this, “height to architectural top” could be replaced by “height to structural top,” in other words, height to the tallest structural element needed to make any occupied or functional area meet the local building code. This would include roofs over occupied floors or mechanical spaces, but it would not count structural elements that were extraneous to the building’s inhabitation. Such a change would realign the Council’s authoritative rankings somewhat—Sears, for example, would maintain its current height of 442 meters, but Petronas Towers and Taipei 101 might need to be revised to reflect the addition of non-functional spires.
This criteria could also be gamed, of course, with large wintergardens atop tall buildings pushing the highest code-required structure further and further skyward. But this would at least incentivize useful, occupiable (and probably quite striking) space on the upper floors of the world’s tallest structures. It would discourage the construction of resource-intensive, intentionally function-free spires, and it would eliminate entirely the debate over what constitutes an “architectural” top.
We’ll see what comes of this, but if CTBUH is referring to spikes like One World Trade Center’s as “vanity height,” I’m going to bet that the tea leaves are showing a slightly more robust set of criteria are on the way. And that Sears will remain the country’s tallest building. Takers?
OK, back to Nervi…funnily enough, this morning I’m working through some literature on Place Victoria, the skyscraper he designed with Luigi Moretti in Montreal…