Best of the Build Smart Blog 2015

Since launching our Build Smart Blog in February, we’ve enjoyed sharing the most unbelievable feats of engineering and innovation in the AEC industry. We’ve written about some of the most talented designers, engineers, architects, trade partners and visionary owners in the business and are amazed by how much they accomplished in 2015.

Highlighting everything from carbon-capturing concrete to a 3D-printed bridge in Amsterdam and Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, we have never been more excited about the future of construction. As we get ready to ring in 2016 we are taking stock of this year’s posts.

Before we sign off for the year, we’d like to share five of our favorite posts from 2015 that you might’ve missed:

1. Hardly a day at the beach: Building an underground parking garage on the Atlantic Shore: The first ever post on the Build Smart Blog dives deep below Miami’s shallow water table to tell the story of an underground parking garage that sits right on the ocean. This is unheard of in South Florida.

2. Harnessing solar energy with windows: By far one of our favorite posts this year was the story of companies turning windows into solar panels. Imagine if One World Trade Center in New York was basically a giant solar panel. How cool is that?

3. California water crisis spurs innovation: All the news media coverage of the drought in California this past summer got us thinking about what the construction industry can do to help. Turns out a lot. Our video about the benefits of using a membrane bioreactor to recycle water within a building is a good start.

4. Lean like Duggan: With the 17th Annual Lean Construction Institute Congress being held right in our backyard this year, we decided to highlight one of our trade partners that has fully embraced Lean manufacturing. E.M. Duggan is a lean, mean prefabrication machine. See for yourself.

5. The sky’s the limit for maglev elevators: For our money, the most exciting innovation to take a major leap forward in 2015 was maglev elevators. We posted about the unveiling of a 1:3 scale model of these cable-free elevators last month, but in May our intrepid writer, Dan Antonellis, explored this groundbreaking technology in full.

We look forward to another amazing year of innovations in the construction industry. You can share your innovations with us in the comment section below or email them to Justin Rice at

Happy New Year!

Airports of the future

In the midst of holiday travel season, we continue our transportation series with innovations that will impact the airports of the future. In case you missed it, check out our last transportation story about Elon Musk’s supersonic transport system, Hyperloop.

Seth Young, the director of the Center for Aviation Studies at The Ohio State University, dreams of the day when travelers will step out of an Uber at the airport and walk all the way to their airplane seat without being stopped at a single checkpoint.

“There are technologies to do that right now,” Young said. “If we can use that technology to just walk through the airport and get on the plane and go, that’s cool!”

Airport operators will need to adopt these types of technologies as one billion passengers are projected to be flying the friendly skies by 2029 and 1.14 billion by 2035. In the next five years alone, airports estimate they will need $75.7 billion to improve existing infrastructures and those capital campaigns will need to consider innovations for alleviating congestion at security and baggage checkpoints, as well as the most innovative airport amenities in the marketplace.   

The automation of airports 

Young’s vision for going from curbside to airside without a single checkpoint could begin with air travelers’ cars being parked by robots.

Robot valets are already employed at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany, where passengers use a smartphone app to make a parking reservation. Travelers leave their vehicles at a designated area so the robots can transport and park their cars. The robot detects the size of the car in order to assign it to a spot that makes the most efficient use of space, allowing the garage to fit 40 to 60 percent more cars than it could otherwise. The system also links itineraries to license plates, so cars can be returned curbside after their owners return home.

Continue Reading ›

Update: Maglev elevator prototype moves mankind closer to mile-high buildings

MULTI model 1 (c) ThyssenKrupp

ThyssenKrupp unveiled its 1:3 scale model last week at its Innovation Center in Gijon, Spain. The mock up features 32-foot shafts. Photo courtesy of ThyssenKrupp.

Back in May we wrote about a cable-free elevator system called MULTI that is poised to become the first breakthrough in elevator technology since the safety brake was invented 162 years ago. Just as the safety brake paved the way for the construction of modern skyscrapers, the recent unveiling of a fully-functional model of a cable-free MULTI elevator has taken mankind one step closer to mile-high skyscrapers …

German-based ThyssenKrupp is perfecting its cable-free MULTI elevator that uses the same magnetic levitation transportation technology, known as Maglev, as high-speed trains in Asia and Europe.

The system essentially levitates elevators by leveraging magnets in the car that repel opposing magnets along the track, causing the car to hover. A separate set of coils along the track pushes and pulls the car in its intended direction, resulting in a faster climb to higher levels of a building with far less friction and resistance. A rotating section of rail that can shift the direction of the moving magnetic field allows the car to also move across the building horizontally.

Instead of ropes, MULTI uses magnetic levitation technology and linear motors to travel 60-feet per second, both vertically and horizontally.

The successful testing of these Maglev-powered elevators will open the door to the construction of taller buildings. Traditional elevator cables currently can’t support both the elevator car and their own weight beyond 2,000 feet high — which is why passengers traveling to the highest floors of skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building must switch elevators as they get closer to the top.

The 761-foot-high concrete MULTI elevator test tower constructed in Rottweil, Germany, will be completed by the end of 2016. Photo courtesy of ThyssenKrupp.

The 1:3 scale model features two 32-foot shafts and four cabs, and it was revealed at the company’s Innovation Center in Gijon, Spain one year after the MULTI concept was first announced.

The mock-up also puts the company a step closer to completing its full-size test tower for the MULTI elevator. The 761-foot-high concrete test tower in Rottweil, Germany will be completed by the end of 2016.

“Our research and development team is right on track to realize this cutting-edge transport technology,” ThyssenKrupp Elevator CEO Andreas Schierenbeck said in a statement. “MULTI will be our answer to tomorrow’s challenges. As the nature of building construction evolves, it is also necessary to adapt elevator systems to better suit the requirements of buildings and high volumes of passengers.”

An overhead view of the the MULTI elevator concrete test tower. Photo courtesy of ThyssenKrupp.


This post was written by Justin Rice and Suffolk Construction’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications Dan Antonellis. Justin can be reached at or follow him on Twitter at @JustinAlanRiceDan can be reached at Connect with him on LinkedIn here and follow him on Twitter at @DanAntonellis.