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Built from the top down?! This new Detroit tower is making history in North America

Technology aims to help prevent hazards on the job
Posted at 4:02 PM, Aug 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-10 17:56:48-04

(WXYZ) — Detroit is making its way back on the map for its engineering marvel.

Last month, part of the I-94 freeway in Detroit was shutdown to commence the installation of the Second Avenue Bridge. The 1,100-ton bridge structure was built off-site in the Wayne State University Palmer parking lot and then moved across the freeway using rolling platforms.

Bridge project closes I-94 for 7 days

But the innovation doesn’t stop there.

Right on the border of Greektown and the Central Business District, a new Detroit landmark is on the rise.

It’s called Exchange, and this 16-floor under-construction tower is so unique that labor steward Chris Mcbride can’t stop raving about it.

"I talk to all my friends and people about this project," said Mcbride.

Exchange tower in Detroit is being built from the top down | Courtesy: LIFTbuild

The first of its kind across North America, the 207 feet tall Exchange tower is being built from the top down. The building is a prototype for the LIFTbuild technology. A system that turns a construction site into a manufacturing plant.

"We’re not putting people on beams 100 feet in the air that needs to be tied off. We’re trying to eliminate all the fall hazards. That is our number one objective, get rid of the hazards, get rid of the inefficiencies on the site," said Joe Benvenuto of LIFTbuild.

Benvenuto says the $64 million tower is supported by two concrete structures called the spine.

They not only house the elevators and staircases but also act as a pulley to hoist floors that each weigh a million pounds.

"It’s a fully cantilever design and there is no columns in the way of the exterior glazing, so if we go up to the floors, you will see a wide-open floor space, that’s great for the residents but also assembled in a way that’s very efficient for the workers," he said.

Each floor is built on the ground using over 150,000 pounds of steel and 110 cubic yards of concrete. Once assembled, it's raised at an average speed of 25 feet per hour.

Reporter Faraz Javed shows us the Exchange tower in Detroit

"If you look up now, you can see all the duct work, and plumbing, and fire protection, and fireproofing, that was all done right here," said Benvenuto.

The lifting process for the 13th floor started at 4 a.m. and by 11 a.m., the team was ready to start the 4-hour-long locking process to the floor above. And once complete, an ideal work environment is secured.

"We can immediately condition the space, so our workers immediately go into a cool condition on a hot summer day or a heated condition on a cold winter day," said Benvenuto.

"Ultimately our goal is trying to be 10 to 20 percent in savings for cost, and 30% on schedule," he added.

After 4 years of research and development and 14 U.S. patents, Benvenuto says the system is proving to be a success and will pave the way for future building projects — especially considering that only 50 construction workers are needed on this site.

"Land is at a premium and the development of the city needs to happen in a much denser environment, this type of technology helps us accomplish that as well as reduced labor demands and hopefully faster schedule times and more economical budgets," he said.

Once complete, Exchange is primarily going to be a residential tower with a few commercial spots on the first floor. It’s set to be completed by late spring of 2023 and when it does, it will put Detroit once again on the map for using innovative construction technologies.