Huge skyscraper construction has undergone a significant shift from developed western nations to Asia and the Middle East, a new report has found.

In its latest report, MEGATALL: What does it take?, built asset consultancy EC Harris says in 2012 alone, a staggering 66 new ‘tall buildings’ (those standing 200 metres or above) were built across the world.

Furthermore, while in the 1980s the world’s 10 tallest buildings were all located in North America – nine in the US, one in Canada – these days Asia boasts nine of the 10 tallest while the tallest, the 828metre Burj Khalifa, is in Dubai.

EC Harris says the world is likely to see even taller buildings over the next decade.

“Within the next decade we are likely to see not only the world’s first kilometre tall building, The Kingdom Tower, Jeddah, but a significant number of tall buildings that could stretch over 600 metres high (2000ft),” the report says, adding that these are what is commonly termed ‘megatall’ buildings.

“To put that in perspective, that is four times the size of The Shard in London. A few years ago, this type of building was not even in existence and yet the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) pipeline shows that we can anticipate over ten megatall buildings to exist across the world by 2020.”

The report notes that the tallest building currently under construction outside the Middle East and Asia is the relatively diminutive 540-metre One World Trade Centre in New York.

EC Harris says the movement in tall buildings from west to east reflects shifts in global economic strength as nations across Asia seek to use architecture to signify their achievements and growing levels of power.

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa

A significant shift, the report says, came in 1998, when the Petronas Towers in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur officially became the world’s tallest buildings.

The report says other factors driving the change include less stringent planning restrictions in the Middle East compared to many developed economies and the need to build upward in Asia because of a scarcity of land relative to population.

It report also identifies a number of challenges associated with megatall construction projects, including health and safety during the building process, longer statutory approval times and the need to embrace innovative technologies.

“The risks associated with building tall are ever more amplified when compared to any other building,” the report says. “Therefore, it is of critical importance that a developer and/or an investor is fully aware of the key drivers associated with the construction of a ‘megatall’ building, irrespective of use or ownership.”

In Australia, the tallest building in existence is the 323-metre Q1 Tower on the Gold Coast, according to a list on the CTBUH web site.

According to that list, the highest proposed tower is Melbourne’s South Pacific Centre, which would reach 610 metres and occupy 150 floors.