We would have all heard about Skyscrapers. In simple terms skyscrapers are very tall, multi-storied building. For the past 20 years, there has been a competition between many countries to hold the title ” Country with the tallest building in the World”. So Skyscraper gained a lot of attention and engineers took it as a challenge and started to erect skyscrapers as tall as possible. 

Groundscraper, on the other hand, is a building that has Built-up area as much as possible. In simple terms,  A groundscraper is a large building that is only around a dozen stories high but which greatly extends horizontally.

History of Groundscraper

The first ever building to be called as Groundscraper was the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. It was opened in 1930. Although it was only 340 ft (100m) in height it covered 4 million sq.ft in area. The construction started in 1928, completed in 1931, and built in the same art deco style as the Chicago Board of Trade Building, its cost was reported as both $32 million and $38 million. The building was the largest in the world in terms of floorspace, but was surpassed by the Pentagon in 1943, and now stands forty-fourth on the list of largest buildings in the world. 

Merchandise Mart

Famous Groundscrapers

Google's London HQ

The term Groundscraper came into prominence when Google announced its HQ in London in 2017. The office block is only 11 stories high, but more than 1000 feet (or 330 metres) in length – as long as London’s Shard is tall. It’s got space for more than 4,000 employees, a rooftop garden with a running track, and has been dubbed a “landscraper” for being as long as a skyscraper is tall.

Apple park

Apple Park is located in California is a ring-shaped building. There are eight buildings. The campus is one mile (1.6 km) in circumference, with a diameter of 1,512 feet. Around 83,000 square feet (7,700 m2) of space is for meetings and breakout spaces in the building.

Due to the pandemic situation, Apple’s Event WWDC20 took place in the Apple Park and was live-streamed to the audience. 

The Pentagon

The Pentagon located in Virginia is the headquarters building of the United States Department of Defense. It is one of the world’s largest office building, with about 6,500,000 sq ft of space, of which 3,700,000 sq ft are used as offices. It has a height of 71 ft with 7 floors. The area allocated for parking is 67 acres.


The world’s first quarry hotel has been opened in China, designed by Martin Jochman and his studio JADE + QA. Situated in an 88-meter-deep, water-filled, disused quarry, the 337-guestroom Intercontinental Shanghai Wonderland Hotel contains only two levels above ground, with 16 more levels plunging into the quarry below.

Pros & cons of Groundscraper


  • Do not impact a city’s skyline
  • Comparatively cheaper to construct
  • Energy efficient (up to a certain limit)
  • Creates more socially inclusive spaces


  •  Occupies more land
  • Expensive on large scale

Which is more sustainable?
Skyscraper or Groundscraper

On a building-by-building basis, it’s a no-brainer that towers use more energy, but when you look at the bigger sustainability agenda, it is vice-versa. 

Say a person living on the 11th floor of a skyscraper.

  • If he/she wants to take a bath, the pump transport the water to that floor with the desired pressure.
  • If he/she wants vertical transportation, they use the elevator. 
  • On that floor he/she cannot open the windows as the velocity of the wind would he high. This makes him/her use the Air Conditioner almost throughout the day.

All these will consume more energy than if he/she lived on the ground floor.

But if we look at the city level it is a different story. The United Nations predicts that the world’s urban population will rise from 3.6 billion to 6.3 billion between now and 2050. To accommodate these new residents, the cities of the future will have to be much denser – and that means the building will be higher. From an urban planning point of view, towers are very sustainable.

In the end, it all comes to the inhabitants of the building. The way they use the resources and energy will have the most effect on the sustainability of a building. High-rise developments that combine offices, homes and other uses enable more efficient use of resources.

Happy Learning! 🙂