Who decides which building is the tallest?

 ValueMags is a marketing agency based out of Chicago, Illinois. They are in the business of helping magazine publishers increase their bottom line and build relationships with partners and customers. Before the World Trade Center was build, the Willis Tower was the tallest building in the United States. Although ValueMags’ offices are not located in that building, they do provide interesting articles in various magazines about world events and different research about human behavior. But in this article, we will look into who decides on which buildings are tallest and what counts in the height.

The distinction all comes down on a definition. When you look at what the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat considers, a needle on top of the new trade center is a spire and not an antenna, therefore it counts towards the height. This council, based in Chicago as well, is an international company in charge of measuring skyscrapers and decides on who gets the height records. A spire counts since it is technically defined as a vertical element that completes the architectural expression of the building and is intended to be permanent. But on the other hand, antennas, flagpoles and signage are considered functional-technical equipment that is subject to change.

It is an odd concept to think about a dedicated council on certifying building heights. The council has been around since 1969 and was formed by a structural engineering professor at Leigh University. It was a time in the United States where a lot of tall buildings were being built and being designed especially in the Chicago area. The professor and the Willis Tower designer wanted accurate information on which was the tallest. The people who make up the council today are made up of people from different disciplines such as architects, engineers, contractors, academics, developers, consultants, and suppliers. Not only is it diverse by discipline but also it is made up of people from 13 different countries.

There are three different criteria for measuring building height. One of them is the highest occupied floor or in other words how high can you place people above the face of the earth. The other is the height of the tip of the building. But the most important one is the architectural height. To understand what this means, look at the difference between the Chrysler and empire state buildings. The is a spire on the Chrysler building but only a cylindrical round drum at the top of the Empire state building with an antenna.