What is a supertall building?

By Nikki M. Mascali  | January 30, 2019 - 3:00PM

A supertall skyscraper is at least 984 feet tall—and more than a dozen of them will soon claim spots in the NYC skyline.


New York City’s skyline is unmistakable, and it’s also ever-changing. These days that change is dramatic, thanks to supertall buildings like One World Trade Center, which joined other famous buildings like the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building and reshaped how the city looks.

You can’t miss these buildings rising very high above the city, and chances are you’ve likely been hearing a lot of about them in the news in recent years, but do you really know what a supertall building is? 

A supertall building is at least 984 feet tall, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, which “developed the international standards for measuring and defining tall buildings,” its website says. 

(Supertalls are not the tallest, though. That designation belongs to “megatall” skyscrapers, which are 1,968 feet high, or taller, the CTBUH says. A large number of these are found in China.)

At 1,396 feet, the 96-story 432 Park became the tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere when it opened in 2015 between 56th and 57th streets, on a stretch known as “Billionaire’s Row.”


The supertall 432 Park looks a lot like the skinny Tetris block.


How are supertalls measured?

The height of supertalls are measured from the “lowest, significant, open-air, pedestrian entrance to the architectural top of the building, including spires,” the CTBUH says. However, measurements do not include antennae, signs, flagpoles, or other equipment. 

Are supertalls built differently than other buildings?

Supertall skyscrapers are more expensive to construct than shorter buildings, and “they require special wind-tunnel and seismic analysis, stiffer frames, extra material and special elevators, and often refuge floors or other safety measures,” the New York-based Skyscraper Museum says on its website. (Refuge floors are built to hold occupants until help can arrive during emergencies, such as a fire, if evacuation is not an option, says the city's Department of Buildings.)

How many supertall buildings are in NYC?

By 2022, there will be 13 supertall skyscrapers in New York City, 11 of which are currently under construction. (A recent proposal from the Department of City Planning may one day curb developers’ use of empty spaces known as mechanical voids that can artificially raise a building’s height, but by how much is yet to be determined.)

One57 opened in 2014, one year before 432 Park, and became the first supertall on Billionaire’s Row. It has 92 apartments and tops out at 1,005 feet.

Among those still to come is 220 Central Park South, the 69-story tower that made headlines last week after it was revealed that hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin was the buyer of a $238 million for a penthouse, setting a record for the most expensive residential purchase in the U.S.

You can get a sense of what NYC’s skyline will look like in 2022 from the rendering below, which was featured on YIMBY. 


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