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My Tall Is Taller Than Your Tall

UK broadcasting regulator OFCOM has pronounced, perhaps proudly given their own personal involvement, that the under-construction Shard will not be the tallest building and instead that title holder will be (and has been) Emley Moor transmitter. Are they right?

Now, of course, OFCOM is right in stating that Emley Moor will be taller than the Shard with a pinnacle height of 330 metres but it's not quite that simple. Emley Moor is in, in effect, a very large concrete neck with an observation room 275 metres up that contains banks of broadcasting and communications equipment; however the roof height of this is approximately 280 metres. It has the necessary building services to constitute a habitable building but only up to there.

Above this level of Emley Moor is an antenna 50 metres tall that is completely separate and independent from the structure, thus one could remove it and there would be no impact on what was below. It is not a structural or architectural feature.

The Shard to its tip will only be 310 metres tall, rather than the 330 metres of Emley Moor but almost all of that height is structural, and an integral part of the building envelope. If you sliced 50 metres off the top of the Shard the building would most definitely not be able to live without it, but that's because most of the top of the Shard, unlike Emley Moor is actually part of the building.

If one was looking at free-standing structures then clearly Emley Moor is taller than the Shard, but in the sense of a building it is very easy to argue the Shard will be the record holder.

The alternative is the belief by OFCOM that an antenna contributes to the building height, thus one would simply need to buy a garden shed and erect a suitably tall free-standing pole on the top of it to claim the title. In this case, would you then say "my garden shed is the tallest free-standing building in Europe"?

Ultimately there's no easy answer to whether or not the Shard will be a taller free-standing building than Emley Moor but one thing's for sure - OFCOM is wrong in declaring Emley Moor the tallest in Europe. By their own definition there's a rather tall rival in Moscow called the Ostankino Tower that is 540 metres in height, whilst if you're looking at Western Europe the Fernsehturm in Berlin is 368 metres tall.

So, ironically the very definition OFCOM has tried to use to declare Emley Moor the European record holder sees it beaten by continental rivals. In the meantime, why not look at our building database entries and decide for yourself.

Article Related buildings:

The Shard

The Shard
Emley Moor Transmitter

Emley Moor Transmitter
Emley Moor, near Leeds
Emley Moor, near Leeds