Are building suppliers ready for population growth?

Global elevator companies are hard at work to overcome the challenges associated with growing urbanisation

By 2050, more than two thirds of the global population will live in cities, placing greater pressure on public infrastructure.
© ITP Media Group / Shutterstock
By 2050, more than two thirds of the global population will live in cities, placing greater pressure on public infrastructure.

Today, more than half of the world’s population of approximately 7.7 billion people lives in urbanised areas. This trend, according to experts, will also drastically reshape the landscape of human settlement around the world – as well as the way in which future cities are built.

In the next 31 years, the United Nations estimates that the number of people living in cities will rise to more than 68%, placing unprecedented pressure on housing, infrastructure, transport, power consumption, and social cohesion. Cities will become wider, taller, and more densely packed, and mobility systems – both external such as roads, and internal, namely elevators – will have to adapt to keep up with the future resident’s needs.

As Construction Week’s research over the last 12 months has shown, people-flow management companies are not only familiar with this changing environment, but are also actively pursuing technology that can support the needs of futuristic and ‘smart’ cities. 

In-company automation and modernisation is a priority for elevator and escalator manufacturers, and a level of familiarity with the Middle East’s construction sector is also significant. While many elevator manufacturers are headquartered in Europe, their efforts in both areas have impacted the region’s built environment in the last 12 months.

Take the example of Kone Corporation, which is supplying 156 elevators, escalators, and travelators for the Dubai Hills Mall, which is being constructed by UAE contracting giant ALEC. Under Kone’s agreement, it will supply 88 escalators, two inclined travelators, and 66 elevators for the mall. As of July 2018, the 650-shop Dubai Hills Mall was 60% complete, and more than half of the building’s structural work was finished.

Thyssenkrupp and Kone won GCC supply contracts in 2018 [© ITP / Shutterstock].

Kone’s recent regional orders also include a deal to equip the Wow Hotel and Hotel Apartments building in Dubai’s high-density Business Bay neighbourhood with 23 elevators.

The Finnish company is equipping the 323m-high tower with residential elevators and two loading bay area elevators, as well as three disabled access platform elevators. Kone expects to complete the order sometime in 2020.

Order book expansion was also noted by German manufacturer Thyssenkrupp in the last 12 months, but its activity from the past week is of equal interest to market-watchers. On 12 February, 2019, Thyssenkrupp announced it would separate its industrials unit from its materials division.

When complete, the move will streamline Thyssenkrupp’s operations and make the company “leaner, faster, and better”. No redundancies are expected from the restructuring, but the board of directors at each company will be reduced to three people. Chief executive officer of Thyssenkrupp, Guido Kerkhoff, said “the separation will create strategic clarity and enable the businesses to develop more dynamically”.

Thyssenkrupp’s restructure comes just months after its completion of a significant project in the GCC. Bahrain Bay’s Twisting Tower, officially known as United Tower, now has Thyssenkrupp’s equipment. The twirling skyscraper is home to the five-star Wyndham Grand Collection Manama hotel.

In December 2018, Thyssenkrupp confirmed it had installed two escalators and 16 elevators for the sixth-tallest tower in Bahrain. Chief executive officer of Thyssenkrupp Elevator, Peter Walker, said the project is a “potential preview of how [an] urban lifestyle will look in the future”.

Modernisation and localisation have been critical to growth in the Middle East so far, and 2019 may hold similar opportunities for firms that are able to adopt both strategies.

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