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!

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.

The sky’s the limit for maglev elevators

With the official public opening of the One World Observatory at One World Trade Center in New York City scheduled for Friday, we got to thinking about elevators …

In 1853 at the New York World’s Fair at New York’s Crystal Palace, a 40-year-old American inventor and businessman named Elisha Otis stood on a hoisting platform high above a crowd of spectators anxiously awaiting his presentation. Otis’s next move would be a death-defying feat that would literally change city skylines forever.

Elisha Graves Otis shows his first elevator in the Crystal Palace, New York City, 1853. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Elisha Graves Otis shows his first elevator in the Crystal Palace, New York City, 1853. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Like a magician, Otis astonished the crowd by ordering an axman to cut the only rope that was suspending the platform on which he was standing. The platform fell just a few inches and then froze still, as if suspended in midair. “All safe, gentlemen,” he emphatically exclaimed as people applauded loudly. Otis had successfully demonstrated how his revolutionary new elevator safety brake could prevent an elevator from falling to the Earth if the hoisting cable unexpectedly broke. His ingenious creation allowed for the debut of passenger elevators and safer travel inside multi-floored buildings, but just as importantly it pushed the boundaries of architecture into the blue and paved the way for the construction of modern skyscrapers and cities.

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