Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Skyscraper Indicator | Excuse me, while I kiss the sky ...

Cycles analyst Edward Dewey (1895-1978) was the chief economics analyst for the US Department of Commerce when he developed the "Skyscraper Indicator" in the 1940s: It correlates human optimism to the number of high-rise buildings under construction. When people are very optimistic, they tend to express their feelings in massive construction projects, especially very tall buildings, because they have a need to build toward the sky! Since this extreme optimism is reached at major market peaks, in the economy, severe economic downturns usually follow; not just declines in real estate prices. 

The world’s current tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (828 m), nicely illustrates this process: It was built as a monument to the Gulf emirate’s boom in the middle years of last decade and opened in late 2009, just as the emirate plunged into financial crisis. These are the highest buildings in 2013:

World's Tallest Buildings 2013

And these are the tallest buildings currently under construction and expected to be complete before 2020:

Skyscrapers under Construction

It doesn't need a prophet to tell where the next bubbles are about to pop: Of all of the world's skyscrapers under construction, China is home to 53% of them and by 2016 China's highest buildings will exceed the 'One World Trade Center' (417 m) in New York by 200 meters. The boom is on though in mid 2013 the construction of the planned 838 meter Sky City in south-central China was halted by the authorities for not having a building permission. A similar craze for high rise has gripped South Korea and India. India just finished building two skyscrapers and has 14 skyscrapers currently under construction. However, having survived the Arab Spring miraculously, it is this decrepit royal kleptocracy in Saudi Arabia that is now giving thanks to each other by decorating Jeddah with a 1,007 meter high 'Kingdom Tower'.

Let's have a look at what happened during recent high times in different places: The construction of the Taipei 101 (508 m) began in 1999 and was completed in 2004. The duration coincided without the recession in the early 2000s and the tech bubble while in 2010 the completion of the Burj Khalifa coincided with the current global financial crisis. The Asian economic crisis, currency devaluation and speculation in stock and property coincided in 1997-1998 with the completion of the Petronas Towers (452 m), the tallest buildings in the world at the time. Now the Great 18-Year Real Estate Cycle will again be due to peak and pop around 2016. 

World's Tallest Buildings 2020 - Excuse me, while I kiss the sky ...