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October 26, 2017

Asian cities are growing up.

Of the world’s supertalls – a nickname for skyscrapers rising over 300 meters – around 60 percent are  in Asia, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). Out of the world’s 48 completed commercial supertalls, 29 are in the region. Most are these are in Hong Kong and mainland China.

Asia’s rising urbanization means supertalls are being built faster than ever before. Last year, for the ninth year in a row, China had the most 200-meter-plus completions, says CTBUH.

The lure of building skyscrapers is rising as developers and governments see the benefits they bring to businesses, citizens, tenants and a city’s profile. This is putting supertalls and megatalls (over 600 metres) high on the development agenda, propelled by rapid economic expansion, competition between cities to put themselves on the map and a desire to maximise land value.

In Southeast Asia, newly constructed supertall buildings and planned structures include Thailand’s MahaNakhon Tower and Observation Tower, Vietnam’s Vincom 81, Jakarta’s Signature Tower and Malaysia’s Merdeka Tower.

“In Asian cities, density and rising population mean there will be more supertall buildings to come,” says Eric Lee, JLL’s Head of Operations, Property & Asset Management, Greater China.

Investor appeal

These stand-out structures are increasingly commanding a rental and valuation premium, Lee adds.

“Supertalls are iconic buildings, and they add value such as prestige and branding, which help to lure top-class tenants, businesses, tourism and talent,” he says.

For instance, Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Twin Towers, once the tallest building in the world, has been a tourist magnet and a major commercial centre since their completion two decades ago. In Shanghai, as the number of tall buildings rises, the city’s ranking has also improved. It has closed the gap with neighbouring Seoul and Tokyo, based on JLL’s Decoding City Performance report.

Generally located in the heart of central business districts or prime locations, these assets have easy access to transportation networks and modern infrastructure. They also contribute to local city developments and symbolise success and optimism for the future of any city, says Lee.

Asian governments have been supporting the construction of supertalls because skyscrapers are perceived as an effective way to boost the competitiveness of a city’s business environment. According to JLL’s Decoding City Performance report, reputation is key in attracting businesses, talent and visitors, and cities are using innovative real estate and impressive skylines to project their brands and identities.

Super tall pay-off

While construction costs of supertalls can be high due to issues such as overcoming wind forces and ensuring energy efficiency, the gain can be worth it. These “vertical villages” not only generate investment opportunities, but also create value for the surrounding areas, helping lure crowds, drive sales and rental prices, says Lee. Additional gains for owners and developers include the ability to display prominent signage and the right to use the name of a significant building.

Supertall buildings are built primarily for commercial purposes, but many also feature mixed-use spaces including retail stores, observation decks, food and beverage shops, and community areas.

There has also been an increased focus on place-making to promote social interactions among users of a supertall. In light of this, elements such as co-working, as well as green spaces, are incorporated at various levels of the supertall building, says Lee, which help boost the popularity and attractiveness of supertalls to a new generation of workers inhabiting the building.

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Eric Lee

Head of Operations, Property & Asset Management, Greater China, JLL

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