Why aren't there skyscrapers in Mexico?

China, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates lead the international ranking of countries with higher buildings. What happens in the Mexican market and why there are no skyscrapers in Mexico?

How come there's no skyscraper in Mexico?. Foto: La Torre Mayor
How come there's no skyscraper in Mexico?. Foto: La Torre Mayor

The Torre Mayor, BBVA, Torre Reforma, the Paseo de la Reforma corridor can boast some of the tallest buildings in Mexico. In Nuevo León, in San Pedro Garza García, the KOI Tower rises as the highest in Mexico. Its height of 279.5 meters is, however, far from the figures of large international skyscrapers. 

Very far from the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, with 828 meters, but also from others such as the new One World Trade Center in New York, which is 541 meters high.

The country, where 151 tall buildings are counted, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), the international body specializing in tall buildings and urban design, does not have structures considered as skyscrapers.

What does a building need to be considered as such? They must have a minimum height of 600 meters, while in Mexico there are only tall buildings, i.e. those measuring between 200 and 300 meters.

Globally, China, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates lead this ranking of buildings that seek to touch the sky.

A building of this category begins with height, but must also have the component of mixed use, ample parking and easy access to public transportation services.

Many of them have mixed uses and service components, such as high-end restaurants, cafeterias, gyms, business centers, and convenience stores. These projects also have the component of a hotel or long-stay residences, executive lounges for events, sufficient parking and easy access to public transportation.

In Mexico, tall buildings with this type of amenities are distributed in places such as Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Puebla, and their market potential lies in tenants willing to pay high rents, which allow the profitability of these projects.

What is happening in Mexico?

A skyscraper project is not commercially viable in Mexico. A developer who wants to build a skyscraper should not only invest in the architecture, but also in the land use permits and in improving the surrounding urban infrastructure to improve access to the complex. And this translates into costs that must be recovered with the rental of space, which the market is not willing to pay.

The problem arises because expensive urban infrastructure has to be built to run a building of this type. All the investment has to be recovered in rates of return and the investment is recovered with rents of spaces that the market is not yet willing to pay. It is not only the meters that have to be built, but also the road infrastructure that represents a very high construction cost, together with the mechanics of the soil.

Building a skyscraper, for example, in Mexico City is also complicated by the type of soil, since to build it is necessary to dig in the subsoil, where there are large amounts of water, making the foundation expensive.

In addition to the fact that in Mexico City the land is very bad, it is a seismic zone and this combination makes it expensive and difficult to build. Japan, for example, is a seismic zone, but does not have the same soil complications.

In the case of big cities, big companies are willing to pay up to 50 dollars per square meter, which encourages the ecosystem to make multimillion-dollar investments in these projects.

The commercial dynamic lies in world-class tenants who are willing to pay rents in excess of 30 dollars per square meter in high-class buildings. This makes possible some ambitious projects with more than 40,000 square meters of offices, floors with more than 1,000 square meters of Gross Profitable Area (ABR).

The future of skyscrapers in the next 50 years is that they are greener and include environmentally friendly components in the main cities of the world where there is a potential market to pay the rents that make this investment profitable.

Source: Expansion

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