How this Detroit building’s construction could change the way contractors build cities worldwide

Exchange Building estimated to be finished by spring

DETROIT – There’s a building being built in Detroit, and how it is being formed could change how contractors build cities worldwide.

The City of Detroit has a long history of beautiful and distinct architecture dotting its skyline.

If you’ve been in downtown Detroit lately, you might have seen the Exchange Building and done a double take and asked where is the bottom half? What is the unique charmed of the Exchange Building’s construction is that it looks like it’s floating in mid-air

The Exchange Building, off of Gratiot Avenue, leans heavily on Detroit’s automotive past as a guide to upending age.

The building’s upper floors rise to the top and snap into place like a child’s lego set. Through considerable research and development, instead of bottom up, contractors figured out going top down in striking fashion.

The “lift build” company is owned by Detroit-based Barton Malow Construction.

“We really try and turn the construction site into more of a manufacturing environment,” said Vice President Joe Benvenuto. “First and foremost, make a safer work environment, lower the cost for our end users and make our trades more productive. We know that we’re dealing with a deficit of labor in the workforce, and we need to try and solve it.”

The contractors start by building two giant concrete pillars called spines. From there, the tradespeople build a scaffold around the spines a mere five feet off the ground. As each of the 16 floors gets finished, a million pounds of living space -- workers then take an eight-hour elevator ride to the top. Once in place, they do the connective finish work of each floor.

“I’ve been in the trades for 20 years, and this is by far the most interesting project that I’ve ever been on,” said operating engineer Jamie Wilcox.

The Exchange Building is expected to have 165 residences, 153 apartments, 12 condos and the first floor will have space for retail and restaurants. Officials say that the building should be finished by sometime next spring.


About the Author:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.