According to the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, a steel “steel skyscraper” is one whose main construction vertical and lateral structural elements, as well as floor systems, are constructed from steel. The idea of steel skyscrapers was first fronted by Fazlur Khan, a vibrant young engineer of Bengali descent.
Although there are a number of incredible steel structures scattered around the world, these kinds of buildings are a phenomenon in their own right, relying solely on the brazen strength of steel for structural integrity.
Below we look at the top 10 tallest steel buildings to ever exist in the world.
Top 5 tallest steel buildings in the world
- 1 World Trade Center/the North Tower in the USA (height 541 meters)
- Willis Tower in the USA (height 527 meters)
- 875 North Michigan Avenue/John Hancock Center in USA (height 457 meters)
- Empire State Building in the USA (height 443.2 meters)
- One Vanderbilt in the USA (height 427 meters)
- 270 Park Avenue in the USA (height 423 meters)
- 30 Hudson Yards in the USA (height 390 meters)
- 85 Sky Tower in China (height 378 meters)
- Aon Center in the USA (height 346 meters)
- First Canadian Place in the USA (height 298 meters)
1. One World Trade Center
One World Trade Center is the tallest steel building in the world. It is the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan, New York City. Also known as One World Trade, One WTC, the building’s steel structure topped out at floor 104, with a total height of 417 meters in August 2012.
The tower’s spire was completely lifted to the top of the building, also known as the Freedom Tower during initial planning stages on May 2013. This brought the total height of the tower to 541 meters.
In Nov 2013, the Height Committee of the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) announced that One World Trade Center was the tallest building in the United States. The committee claimed that the mast on top of the building is a spire since it is a permanent part of the building’s architecture.
2. Willis Tower, Chicago
Also called the Sears Tower, Willis Tower was completed in 1974 having been constructed for just three years. Sears Tower stands 527 meters high owing to the extension of the western antenna in 2000.
The building was constructed using Bundled Tube structural engineering principles and its strength comes from a combination of nine main structures arranged in a three-by-three grid that make up the complex. The interior of Willis Tower includes 67,000 tonnes of steel, 1.8 kt of aluminum, and 410,000 m2 of concrete.
3. The John Hancock Centre
The John Hancock Center is a 100-storey skyscraper located in Chicago, Illinois.
Construction of the building began back in 1965 and was completed in 1969. When measured to the top of its antenna masts, John Hancock Center which in 2018, was officially renamed 875 North Michigan Avenue, stands at 457 meters.
875 North Michigan Avenue has a trussed tube structural engineering design which is evident on the building’s exterior.
4. Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is a 102-story Art Deco skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. The building is easily recognizable thanks to its thrusting pinnacle and broad, sprawling base.
It was completed in 1931 after 13 months of construction. As a result Empire State Building became the tallest building in the world for more than 40 years at a height of 443.2 meters including its antenna.
5. One Vanderbilt
Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, One Vanderbilt is built at the corner of 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue in Manhattan, New York City. At a height of 427 meters or other 93-storeys, the building is the 6th tallest steel building in the world.
It consists of a steel-and-concrete mechanical core surrounded by a steel frame. Reportedly, The One Vanderbilt utilised more than 24,000 tonnes of steel and only 57,000 m3 of concrete.
The skyscraper was opened in 2020.
6. 270 Park Avenue
Also known as the JPMorgan Chase Building, this is a skyscraper located in the Midtown Manhattan neighbourhood of New York City. It is 423 meters and over 60 floors tall.
Designed by Foster + Partners, the 270 Park Avenue tower is still under construction, however, it has already surpassed the height of the original 52-storey 215 meters 270 Park Avenue.
The new building is expected to be completed in 2025.
7. 30 Hudson Yards
Also the North Tower, 30 Hudson Yards is a 390 meters skyscraper in the West Side of Midtown Manhattan, New York City.
It is located near Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, and the Penn Station area and it is part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project. The latter is a plan to redevelop the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s West Side Yard.
30 Hudson Yards consist of is the 7th tallest steel building in the world. It consists of a concrete slab on a composite metal deck supported by steel framing and steel columns, all laterally supported by a steel braced core and outrigger system.
8. 85 Sky Tower
This is an 85-story skyscraper in Lingya District, Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The structure is 347.5 meters tall and has an antenna that increases the pinnacle height to 378 meters.
Formerly known as the T & C Tower or Tuntex Sky Tower, 85 Sky Tower was constructed from 1994 to 1997 by the now-defunct Tuntex Group. The building has an unusual ‘prong’ design with two separate 39-floor sections that merge into a single central tower rising to a spire. This unique design leaves a substantial space below the central part of the tower.
The design was inspired by the first Kanji and Chinese character of the city’s name.
9. Aon Center
Formerly known as the v Amoco Building (1974–85) and the Aon Center (1985–99) is a modern supertall skyscraper east of the Chicago Loop, Chicago, Illinois, United States. The building was designed by architect firms Edward Durell Stone and The Perkins and Will partnership, and its construction was completed in 1974.
With a total of 83 floors and a height of 346 meters, AON Centre is the fourth-tallest building in Chicago, surpassed in height by Willis Tower, Trump International Hotel and Tower, and St Regis Chicago.
The building employs a tubular steel-framed structural system.
10. First Canadian Place
Originally First Bank Building, this is a skyscraper in the Financial District of Toronto, Ontario, at the northwest corner of King and Bay Streets.
At 298 meters, First Canadian Place is the tallest building in Canada and the third tallest free-standing structure in Canada, after the CN Tower (also in Toronto) and the Inco Superstack chimney in Sudbury, Ontario.
The building was designed by B+H Architects with Edward Durell Stone as a design consultant and was constructed in 1975.