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Height restriction laws

Height restriction laws are laws that restrict the maximum height of structures.

There are a variety of reasons for these measures. Some restrictions limit the height of new buildings so as not to block views of an older work decreed to be an important landmark by a government. For example, In the Russian capital of Saint Petersburg, buildings could not be taller than the Winter Palace.[1]

Other restrictions are because of practical concern, such as around airports to prevent any danger to flight safety.

Height restriction laws sometimes become a point of contention in cities due to their use in regulating the growth of the housing supply. Fast growth of housing supply benefits renters by producing low prices and a lot of choice, while slow or no growth in housing supply benefits property owners by allowing them to charge higher prices. In this way, height restriction laws often become part of a class conflict even when their original purpose was innocuous.


Middle East

Israel and Jordan inherited laws from the days of the British Mandate that prevent buildings from rising more than four stories above the ground except by special government permission. In Amman, these regulations have been credited with maintaining the city's architectural and urban heritage, but have also been accused of inflating housing prices and causing unsustainable urban sprawl [2]


PRESIDENTIAL DECREE No. 1537 dated January 4, 1978 ENTITLED "Providing for the preservation of the walls of Intramuros and the restoration of its original moat and esplanade" by including preservation and restoration of the walled city includes (Section 10) the height of buildings within the Intramuros district shall be based upon the widths of streets on which the building abuts but the total height of the structure shall not exceed 30 meters. No tower shall be 35 meters high measured from the top of the sidewalk.

Hong Kong SAR

To protect the ridge line along Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon, height restrictions are imposed according to the location of the buildings or structures.[3]

Prior to the 1998 closure of the Kai Tak Airport, many places in Kowloon had a stricter building height restriction due to its proximity to the airport.


In Bali, Indonesia, a building cannot be higher than a coconut tree, which is about 15 meters.[4][5][6] The only building that is higher than a coconut tree is the Bali Beach Hotel because the hotel was built before the height restriction was announced.[7] The restriction was enforced by a regional regulation, however, how much this is enforced is in question.[8]


Buildings in Raffles Place, Marina Centre, Marina Bay Sands, Bugis and Kallang have height restrictions of up to 280m because of the proximity of Paya Lebar Airbase.[9]


In Europe, there is no official general law restricting the height of structures. There are however height restriction laws in many cities, often aimed to protect historic skylines.

In Athens, buildings are not allowed to surpass twelve floors so as not to block the view towards the Parthenon. There are several exceptions though, such as the Athens Tower, the Atrina center and the OTE central building which all exceed that level. This is due to them either being built far away from the centre, or to the fact that they were constructed during periods of political instability. The city's tallest structure is the Athens Tower, reaching 103m and comprising 25 floors.

In the central area of Rome, delimited by the Aurelian Walls, no building can exceed the height of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, 136 meters. A skyscraper called Torre Eurosky (Eurosky Tower) built in 2012 in EUR neighbourhood exceed this limit being 155 meters high.

There is however a height restriction for new onshore wind turbines in the European Union, which set their total height to 200 metres.[10]

North America


Canada has no national height restrictions, but many individual cities do have height restriction bylaws and building is restricted by the national aviation authority (Transport Canada) near airports. Some examples:

  • Montreal: until the late 1920s, all buildings were limited to 10 storeys.[11] Currently buildings are limited to a height of 200 meters and are subject to not contrasting the view of Mount Royal, the city's central green space, with the only exception being antennas and communication towers, that are allowed to reach 223 metres (732 ft) above mean sea level. The downtown today possesses only one building exceeding 200 m, the 1000 de la Gauchetière tower, which was built as a special project in 1992.
  • Ottawa-Gatineau: Until 1973, buildings in downtown Ottawa were limited to 45.5 metres (149 ft) so that the Peace Tower, part of the parliament buildings, could dominate the skyline.[12]
  • Saskatoon: continues to limit building heights to a maximum of 76 meters due to a flight path that bisects the downtown core,[13] however, the recent proposal of a 90 - 100 meter tower could potentially lead to the lifting of this height limit.[14]
  • Vancouver: maintains "view corridors" that protect views of the North Shore Mountains.[15] It also has a density bank that allows developers to exceed maximum building height restrictions in exchange for preserving heritage buildings.
  • Whitehorse: No buildings should be taller than four stories due to the nearby fault line. The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce said that maintaining the height restriction of four stories would discourage businesses from coming to the city. On 2007, the city rejected the proposal to increase the height limit to eight stories. In order to exceed height limit, the developer would have to apply for an amendment to the city's official community plan.[16]
  • Hamilton: No buildings may exceed the height of the Niagara Escarpment, to preserve views of Lake Ontario from the Escarpment, and vice versa.[17]

United States

Both the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have a rebuttable presumption not to build any antennae over 2,000 feet (610 m) above ground level. This is to prevent those structures from being a hazard to air navigation.[18][19] In recent years, the FAA has requested that height limits within 10,000 feet (3,000 m) of an airport runway be lowered from 250 feet (76 m) to 160 feet (49 m), as development near airports has increased.[20]

For airports, sometimes there are exceptions for height restrictions made for important infrastructure equipment, as radio towers or for structures older than the airport. These structures have to be marked with red and white paint, have flight safety lamps on top, or both. Often red and white paint and flight safety lamps have to be installed on high structures (taller than 100 metres (330 ft)) far away from airports. Height restriction laws are not always kept strictly.[citation needed]

Several cities in the United States have local height limits, for example:


  1. ^ Terterov, Marat. Investing in St Petersburg. GMB Publishing Ltd, 2005, pg. 132.
  2. ^ Venture Magazine Low Rise To High Rise?
  3. ^ HKIP's Position on Building Height Restrictions for Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay Business Areas
  4. ^ "In Bali, Trump's planned six-star hotel risks angering the Gods". The Jakarta Post. 2017-01-26. Retrieved 2017-02-15.
  5. ^ "Dikhawatirkan, Bali Terus "Dilahap" Bangunan Tinggi". Kompas (in Indonesian). 2011-11-29.
  6. ^ Bali Regional Regulation 16 of 2009, Art. 95
  7. ^ "Sanur - Indonesia images". Archived from the original on 2011-06-14. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  8. ^ Bali Apartments And The Evolving Bali Real Estate Market
  9. ^ Discover Singapore: The City's History & Culture Redefined By Susan Tsang, Edward Hendricks; ISBN 981-261-365-X, 9789812613653
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2012-02-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ [][permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Ottawa - Student World Book
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-11-10. Retrieved 2011-08-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ []
  15. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-10-01. Retrieved 2010-01-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ "Whitehorse puts brakes on highrise rule change". CBC News. 2007-04-24.
  17. ^ "Hamilton approves new rule saying buildings can't be higher than the escarpment | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2018-06-09.
  18. ^ "70/7460-1L Advisory Circular Marking and Lighting FAQs". Federal Aviation Administration. January 4, 2017. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  19. ^ Timmerman, Jerianne (2014). NAB Legal Guide to Broadcast Law and Regulation. CRC Press. p. 120. OCLC 864753069. Retrieved February 18, 2017 – via Google Books.
  20. ^ "FAA wants to lower building height limit near airports". New York Post. Associated Press. June 26, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  21. ^ Schlueb, Mark. "No Space Needle or Gateway Arch: What defines Orlando's skyline?". Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  22. ^ Singer, Natalie (July 3, 2005). "A towering new identity in Bellevue". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  23. ^ "1989 Wisconsin Act 222" (PDF). Wisconsin State Legislature. April 27, 1990. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  24. ^ Ivey, Mike (April 9, 2014). "By design, Madison has no tall buildings". The Capital Times. Madison, Wisconsin. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  25. ^ "Citywide Maximum Building Heights".
  26. ^ Lewis, Roger K. (April 23, 1994). "Testing the Upper Limits of D.C. Building Height Act". Washington Post. p. F3. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  27. ^ Yglesias, Matthew (April 18, 2012). "Legalize Skyscrapers: D.C.'s height restrictions on buildings are hurting America". Slate. Retrieved February 18, 2017.

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