Towering 508 metres from ground to tip, Taipei 101 (formerly Taipei World Financial Center) is Taiwan’s slightly taller answer to New York’s Empire State Building.

Aptly renamed for its 101 floors – making it the tallest building in Taiwan – the tower is an architectural marvel. Its features are derived from Chinese culture, with its structure emulating Chinese pagodas.

The tower is separated into eight sections; eight being the Chinese lucky number and a sign of prosperity.

And with its pale green glass walls – which are both heat reflective and energy efficient – the tower evokes a bamboo shoot, a traditional symbol of strength.

Joseph Chou, Chairman of Taipei 101
Joseph Chou, Chairman of Taipei 101

Being Taipei 101

Towering over the Xinyi District, Taipei 101 was originally created with the aim of becoming the banking hub of the Asia–Pacific.

But with Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore already cornering that market, the tower’s leases were diversified to include other businesses.

“We host not just financial institutions but any kind of business,” says Taipei 101 Chairman Joseph Chou. “Our leisure businesses attract close to three million visitors annually.”

“Our leisure businesses attract close to three million visitors annually.”

From local businesses to high-end international brands including Dior, Bulgari, Apple, and Tiffany & Co., Taipei 101 has become a thriving business centre.

“We are already at full occupancy, and yet there are many prospective tenant enquiries,” Joseph says.

“The tenant mix is evolving all the time. Right now, we only have boutique-sized banks, whereas 10 years ago all the banks in Taipei 101 were big multinational companies.”

“We have Google and Chinese company Cheetah Mobile taking up a couple of floors. Pharmaceuticals are really booming in Taiwan and we have a biopharmaceutical company coming in.”

Fast facts:

Taipei 101 was ranked the world’s tallest building from 2004 to 2010. The current title holder is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai at a colossal 828 metres.

Since its completion in 2004, Taipei 101 has attracted locals and tourists from around the world. In addition to office spaces, it has an indoor and outdoor observatory, and a grand shopping mall.

Further, Taipei 101 serves as an exciting venue for New Year’s Eve celebrations, putting on dazzling fireworks displays that shoot off the tower itself.

Wearing multiple hats

Joseph is proud to be associated with this iconic skyscraper. “We are the ambassadors of Taiwan,” he says.

“Every time I speak with visitors, tenants or foreign dignitaries, I’m happy that I can present the best part of Taiwan.”

“At the same time, we realise this is a big business, and we need to be profitable and deliver a good return to our investors.”

“Every time I speak with visitors, tenants or foreign dignitaries, I’m happy I’m presenting the best part of Taiwan.”

Before Taipei 101, Joseph worked as a professor in the public finance department of Taiwan’s National Chengchi University.

During that time, he worked closely with the Ministry of Finance, which managed Taipei 101 on behalf of the Taiwanese government, its majority shareholder.

“When the Ministry looked for someone to manage the company, they called me.” Joseph enjoys managing the tower and is impressed by the workmanship of the millennial generation.

“Personally, I think I’m wearing three hats as the chairman, chief economist, and principal of the so-called ‘Taipei 101 Academy’,” he says.

“I am thinking of transforming the workplace into a learning den. There are many initiatives that I place in my employees’ daily working routine.”

“They need to learn, communicate with their superiors, and share what they have learned that is relevant to business practice in all the functions we have.”

“I am very happy with this younger generation because they are brave.”

“Every month we have this rather big town hall meeting, and they are willing to come up on stage and share what they have learned and what they think possible.”

“The future is quite bright. I am happy to see this generation at centrestage in Taipei 101’s team.”

Taipei 101 is big on sustainability

It received the highest green building certification given by the United States Green Building Council, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Version 4 (LEED v4).

“We scored 90 points, which is the highest level that has been achieved by any building,” Joseph says.

“Needless to say, we are very tall so it was hard, but we did it. Energy saving is number one. It makes the most sense in financial returns because when you improve your energy use, all the utility costs will be cut quite dramatically.”

“Water recycling is the next big thing for us. With our original structure, we have the advantage of harvesting rainwater. But that’s not good enough.”

“We are looking to invest more seriously in rebuilding our water reclaim system.”

Further, the company has begun an initiative to get all its businesses involved in sustainable practices. “There are more than 120 companies in Taipei 101,” Joseph adds.

“In order to make this sustainability effort go forward, we need their consensus.”

Plans for the future

Ironically, the plans for the future of Taipei 101 involve taking a step beyond the tower itself. “We have a codename for this mid-term project called ‘Infinite Taipei 101’,” Joseph explains.

“We will not construct another Taipei 101; instead, we will take the expertise, experience and all the management modules we have to other tall buildings.”

“Our facility management team can manage other buildings, big or small.”

Fast facts:

Standing firm
Taipei 101 contains the largest and heaviest wind damper in the world, weighing 660 tonnes and stretching 5.5 metres in diameter.

Located in the centre of the tower’s observatory, between floors 87 and 92, the damper reduces swaying caused by strong winds.

It’s also the only damper system that can be viewed by the public.

“We are happy to share our knowledge and want to transform other non-green buildings into green buildings.”

“We are looking for opportunities to manage other shopping spaces that will be opening soon in Taiwan. As for the observatory, we want it to grow into a travel hub of Taiwan, and provide tours.”

“We are already in the execution stage of taking people to eastern Taiwan. And we are working with our partner in Japan for a tour called the G7 tour.”

“They will get to enjoy the same services given to a G7 (Group of Seven) leader.”