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Global Building Industry Picks Up Speed, Looks To Future-Proof

(Photo Credit: Mark Goh)

The global building industry numbers speak for themselves. Existing cities are growing and new cities are forming. Skyscrapers are getting taller. The population is increasing. And in the midst of it, businesses need to make sure the products they put out today are future-proof, says Brad Nemeth, VP of sustainability for ThyssenKrupp Elevator for the Americas.

“We are building the size of Manhattan every day around the globe,” Nemeth said during a plenary session at the Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference in Denver. “The rate of construction is huge.”

With global elevator ridership already at around a billion people each day, Nemeth says his company is seeing a shift to higher and higher buildings. The tallest in the world reaches nearly half a mile.

This push prompted ThyssenKrupp to ask probing questions. “We’re adding more and more people to the globe who are consuming resources,” Nemeth said. “How can we make that better? Are all my materials reusable? How can we substitute materials? How do we become better in building technologies?”

Each elevator contains some 20,000 parts so the company’s approach to future proofing involves pursuing material transparency. To illustrate what this means in practice, Nemeth used Twinkies. At a basic level, he explained, it’s cake and cream. Then the next level down means exploring the ingredients — wheat flour, corn syrup, water, shortening. In other words, the material safety data sheets that are required by law.

“Is there anything bad in there?” Nemeth asks next. The company is covered but wouldn’t necessarily know from those sheets whether a supplier’s process exposes employees to dangerous situations, he added.

ThyssenKrupp went deeper, taking their elevator components and exploring them down to 100 parts per million. In Twinkie terms, it’s knowing about ingredients like polysorbate 60, beef fat, sodium stearoyl lactylate as well as where those ingredients come from and how they are produced.

“I’ve got chemical X, maybe an adhesive. I know it’s emitting formaldehyde. Maybe it doesn’t meet California’s Section 01350 standards,” Nemeth said. “What do I replace it with?” Getting that full impact is eye opening, he says. But it also helps protect the company by surfacing risks within the supply chain.

Stay tuned for more updates from #ELEMCON18.

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