This skyscraper looks like a reason to be worried about Canada

Stantec TowerStantecA rendering of the Stantec Tower.

The tallest building outside of Toronto is coming to Edmonton, the capital of Alberta which is Canada’s biggest oil-producing province.

On Wednesday, the Edmonton Journal reported that the Stantec Tower is now expected to be 62 stories tall, or about 825 feet. This will make the Tower larger than the planned 56-story Brookfield Place building set to be completed in Calgary — Alberta’s largest city — in 2017.

This building will serve as the headquarters for Stantec, a global engineering firm with a market cap of around $US2.2 billion.

And while the building of a few tall buildings in the Canadian province that has most-benefited from the oil boom, and most felt the oil bust, might seem like a good thing, the “Skyscraper Index” implies that tall buildings should often be seen as a bad sign for an economy.

This index, developed by analysts at Barclays, tracks how the building of some of the world’s tallest buildings have overlapped with financial crises.

Recent examples include the Taipei 101 tower, built to 1,671 feet and completed right before the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000, as well as the Burj Khalifa, built to 2,717 feet tall and completed right alongside the fallout from the global financial crisis.

Now, of course, the Stantec Tower will not really make a dent on the global stage as far as tall buildings go.

But the readthrough here is that constructing towers coincides with boom economic times, only for many of those towers to find an economy worse off than before after completion. Again, the Stantec Tower is set to be completed in three years while the Calgary-based rival it will eclipse is set to open in 2017. These are big projects that work on a big lag, and you can’t get them funded unless things are going well: by the time the economy slows, it’s too late.

And already, things in Canada aren’t looking so hot.

The economy falling into a recession this year after 2 straight quarters of GDP contraction. And Alberta has been hit harder than most provinces, with the National Post Magazine this week chronicling the decline of the province, which shed more than 20,000 jobs through the first half of this year, while the once red-hot housing market shows signs of cracking.

Earlier this year, the Post chronicled the rise of “ghost towers” in Calgary, where offices lay vacant in the wake of big layoffs in the oil industry.

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