The Largest Buildings in the World

The New Century Global Center in Chengdu, China, is the world's largest building by square footage. Editorial credit: Serjio74 /
The New Century Global Center in Chengdu, China, is the world's largest building by square footage. Editorial credit: Serjio74 /

The size of a building is not only determined by the height, but it can also be defined by the area it covers. If asked, the majority of people might say that the Dubai-based Burj Khalifa is the largest building in the world. However, there are several other yardsticks to use when analyzing the biggest buildings. One of these is the size regarding floor area. By land area, the New Century Global Center in Chengdu, China is the world's largest building. It covers a total of 18.9 million square feet. The Dubai International Airport Terminal 3 is a close second with 18.4 million square feet covered.

The World's Top 3 Largest Buildings

New Century Global Complex, China- 18.9 Million Square Feet

The New Century Global Complex is a multi-purpose building located in Chengdu, China. With a floor area of 18.9 million square feet, the New Century Global Complex is the largest building in the world by floor area. To better understand the building’s immense size, it is three times the size of the American Pentagon which measures 6.45 million square feet. The building was developed by Chinese company Entertainment and Travel Group (ETG) and was opened in July 2013 and took three years to complete construction. The New Century Global Complex is home to several hotels, a skating rink, a university and a water park with its artificial beach measuring 5,000 square meters.

Dubai International Airport Terminal 3, United Arab Emirates - 18.4 Million Square Feet

The Dubai International Airport Terminal 3 is located at the Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Opened in October 2008 the terminal was then the largest building in the world and is currently the second largest in the world. It occupies an area of over 18.3 million square feet. The Dubai International Airport Terminal 3 was built by the government at a cost of $4.5 billion. It is mainly used by local airline Emirates and Australian airline Qantas, and can handle more 43 million passengers. The baggage handling system used in the terminal is the biggest in the world and consists of 0.62-mile conveyor belts and 21 screening points. The terminal consists of two concourses: Concourse A and Concourse B. Concourse A is used by Australian airline Qantas while Concourse B is used by Air Emirates. The terminal has an underground metro called the Dubai Metro which is used to ferry passengers in and out of the airport.

Abraj Al Bait Endowment, Saudi Arabia - 16.9 Million Square Feet

The Abraj Al-Bait is a complex consisting of seven skyscrapers located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The building is the both the tallest and the largest in Saudi Arabia with a height of 1906 feet and a 16.9 million square feet floor area and ranks as the fourth tallest structure in the world. Built by the Saudi government at the cost of $15 billion, the Abraj Al Bait is also the most expensively built building in the world. The Abraj Al-Bait which is a hotel was built by the Saudi government to accommodate the millions of pilgrims who visit Mecca for the annual Islam festival of Hajj.

Why Not Build Up?

Most developers and architects believe that the most sustainable way of increasing capacity in mega-structures is vertical. However, in cases of shopping malls and airport terminals have an exception as tall structures in airports are forbidden due to air traffic. Shopping malls discourage tall buildings due to tenancy issues where most tenants would prefer bottom floors so as to be easily seen by their customers.

The World's 15 Largest Buildings By Square Footage

RankBuilding NameLocationFloor area (sq ft)Purpose
1New Century Global CenterChengdu, China18.9 millionShopping center
2Dubai International Airport Terminal 3Dubai, UAE18.4 millionAirport terminal
3Abarj Al-Bait EndowmentMecca, Saudi Arabia16.9 millionMixed use
4CentralWorldBangkok, Thailand16.9 millionShopping center
5Aalsmeer Flower AuctionAalsmeer, Netherlands10.7 millionAuction center
6Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3Beijing, China10.6 millionAirport terminal
7The Venetian MacaoMacau10.5 millionHotel and casino
8Sands Cotai CentralMacau9.6 millionHotel and casino
9Ciputra World SurabayaJakarta, Indonesia8.1 millionShopping center
10Berjaya Times SquareKuala Lumpur, Malaysia7.5 millionMixed use
11Central Park Jakarta ComplexJakarta, Indonesia7.1 millionShopping center
12Perpa Trade CenterIstanbul, Turkey7.1 million Trade center
13Kemang VillageJakarta, Indonesia7.0 millionMixed use
14Gandaria CityJakarta, Indonesia7.0 millionMixed use
15The PalazzoLas Vegas, United States6.9 millionHotel

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