Dubai was the most prolific skyscraper-building city in the world during 2020, a year that will also be remembered for the collapse of the biggest construction player Arabtec.

The emirate completed 12 skyscrapers last year, accounting for all of the UAE’s 200-metre-plus buildings and topping its 2019 total by three, despite the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic which saw activity on some construction sites come to a halt.

The last time Dubai held this title was 2010, the year the world’s current tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, was completed by, ironically, Arabtec, which filed for liquidation in late 2020.

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Dubai broke the streak of Shenzhen in China, which was the world-champion city four times in a row from 2015-2019. In 2020, Shenzhen completed nine such buildings, down from 18 in 2019, dropping the south China megacity to second place.

Completions in Dubai included the SLS Dubai building (336 metres), Amna tower (307m), ICD Brookfield Place (282m), Boulevard Point (280m) and Palm Tower (231m), according to new data released by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH).

ICD Brookfield Place (282m)

CTBUK hailed the performance of the UAE construction sector, saying: “The United Arab Emirates is seeing a resurgence, recording more completions (12) than in any year since 2011. The UAE had nine completions in 2019 and 10 in 2018. Considering that the US records were 14 completions in both 2018 and 2019, and the relative sizes of the two economies, this is an impressive output by any measure.”

Construction Week Editor Ashley Williams said: “This news is testament to why Dubai is among the most established cities in the world and once again demonstrates its capabilities of striving even through a global health crisis.

“While Dubai’s construction sector was largely unaffected compared to other sectors in 2020, the lockdown period had caused significant delay and disruption for contractors meeting strict delivery timeframes.

“For Dubai to be recognised for this milestone is a huge achievement, but I truly believe that the real winners here are the contractors who have worked endless hours to make sure these buildings are brought to life.”

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Anthony Spary, head of Landlord Agency, CBRE, told Arabian Business: “Despite extremely challenging global market conditions, Dubai being a world renowned city for its sky scrapers and construction industry, once again showed the world why this city continues to buck the trend in its ability to deliver signature assets across multiple sectors.

“A prime example of this would be the highly anticipated opening of ICD Brookfield Place in September 2020, instantly becoming the ‘best in class’ office asset in the region and taking its place as a dominant figure across the skyscraper skyline of the DIFC and CBD of Dubai.

“This asset will also hopefully encourage further foreign investment into the emirate from other international developers who recognise the value of the Dubai real estate market and who will want to place their own stamp on an industry that continues to grow and evolve.”

CTBUH said that the degree to which the Covid-19 pandemic directly affected the construction schedule of a tall building in 2020 was “highly variable in relation to local regulations and the ability of the contractor to keep a sufficient number of workers on-site”.

The completion of nine projects across Malaysia, India and Brazil was pushed into 2021 as a direct consequence of Covid-19, it ssaid, adding that there were mandated work stoppages in cities such as New York and San Francisco.

“As tall buildings are often lagging economic indicators, any chilling effect that economic conditions or work interruptions may have had on new project starts, or projects that were under construction in 2020 and were scheduled to be completed in 2021 or later, remains to be seen. It must be remembered, the economic crisis of 2008 was not reflected on skylines, in terms of lower completion rates, until 2010 and 2011,” it added.

While Dubai was the busiest city for skyscrapers, China completed more than half the total buildings in the study (56) as Asia accounted for 66 percent of the global total.

Dubais’ Burj Khalifa (828m)

The second-most prolific country was the UAE, followed by the United States with 10, and the United Kingdom with five.

India completed three 200-meter-plus buildings in 2020, all of which are in Mumbai.

Predictions for 2021

Based on current counts, CTBUH predicted that between 125 and 150 buildings of 200 metres or greater height will be completed in 2021.

Looking at the top 30 projected completions in 2021, 18 are in China, five are in the United States, and three are in Saudi Arabia.

It said all of the buildings coming online in Riyadh next year are part of the massive King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD), which will comprise some 50 buildings upon completion.

King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD)

It added that 11 will have completed by the end of 2020, and its signature landmark, the 385-metre PIF Tower, will be among the class of 2021.

“It is reasonable to predict that Covid-19 will affect investment and construction for some time to come. It is already the case that some projects expected to have completed by the end of 2021 are being moved to 2022,” added CTBUH.





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