New York and Chicago are home to five of the tallest buildings in the U.S. But ranking them — and the rest of the world’s tallest structures — is more mind-bending than one might think. Lists can vary depending, for example, on whether you count the broadcast antennas on top or whether you’re judging them by highest usable floor. Below is a by-the-numbers rundown on five of the tallest buildings in the U.S.
In reflection of just how in dispute everything from height to number of floors can be, these figures from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat sometimes differ from those of the building’s owners and developers.
1 WORLD TRADE CENTER, New York.
To be completed in 2014.
This is the marquee skyscraper at ground zero. It rises from the northwest corner of the site. Major tenants include the magazine publisher Conde Nast, the government’s General Services Administration and Vantone Holdings China Center, which will provide business space for high-profile international companies.
—ARCHITECTURAL HEIGHT: 1,776 feet (This figure is still under review by the council; without counting the needle, the tower is 1,368 feet).
WILLIS TOWER, Chicago.
Completed in 1974 (The Willis says it was completed in 1973).
Formerly known as the Sears Tower, the building has defined Chicago’s skyline. Built as a headquarters for Sears Roebuck and Co., the building is now home to London-based insurance broker Willis Group Holdings and is the world headquarters of United Continental Holdings, which operates United Airlines.
—ARCHITECTURAL HEIGHT: 1,451 feet (Including the antennas it is 1,729 feet).
—FLOORS: 108 (The Willis says 110).
TRUMP INTERNATIONAL HOTEL & TOWER, Chicago.
Completed in 2009.
The skyscraper on the Chicago River would have topped the Willis under one version of the designs. But Donald Trump said initial plans for a taller spire on top looked awkward. And some of those who purchased condominiums in the tower before its completion expressed concern about living in a taller building.
—ARCHITECTURAL HEIGHT: 1,389 feet.
EMPIRE STATE BUILDING, New York.
Completed in 1931.
Built in just over a year’s time, the art deco building officially opened when President Herbert Hoover in Washington, D.C., pressed a button that turned on the skyscraper’s lights. It made its way into film with the 1933 debut of the original “King Kong” movie showing a giant ape clutching actress Fay Wray and fending off airplanes atop the building. Once the world’s tallest building, it held that title until 1972, when the World Trade Center went up.
—ARCHITECTURAL HEIGHT: 1,250 feet.
BANK OF AMERICA TOWER, New York.
Completed in 2009.
The glass-covered skyscraper off Bryant Park claims a roster of green features that drew in Al Gore’s environmentally friendly investment firm as a tenant. Bank of America is the primary tenant, occupying six trading floors and 75 percent of its interior.
—ARCHITECTURAL HEIGHT: 1,200 feet.
Sources: Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, The Associated Press.
Note: According to the council’s definition, “architectural height” includes spires, but not antennas, signs, flagpoles or other functional-technical equipment. In counting floors, it doesn’t include mechanical penthouses or plant rooms above the roof or mechanical mezzanines if they have significantly smaller floor area than the major floors below.