China Just Commissioned the World's Fastest Elevators

Today, the Japanese tech giant Hitachi announced a contract to build two of the fastest elevator in the world for a forthcoming skyscraper in China. Seems innocuous enough, right? But buried within the press release are a few fascinating details that illustrate how China's skyscraper boom is affecting the global economy—including the fact that it bought a whopping 60 percent of all elevators sold in 2013.

The building in question is the Guangzhou CTF Finance Center, a 1,738-foot supertall designed by KPF Architects that'll overlook the Pearl River when it's finished in 2017. Hitachi's role in all of this will be to build almost 100 elevators for the building, which will house offices, a hotel, and condos.

But these aren't your average elevators: Two of them will be the fastest ever built, traveling 95 floors (or 1,443 feet) in less than 43 seconds. One of the more major challenges with supertall elevators, of course, is that the weight of the cable itself gets too heavy at extreme heights. Hitachi won't say much about how its technology eases the strain on the machine's ballast, but the company does describe the materials it uses. For example, because of the extreme heat generated by braking, its emergency brake system uses a heat-resistant material that can withstand temps of over 550 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hitachi has actually developed most of the super-fast elevators of the last fifty years. For example, back in 1968, it installed the record holder of the day in Japan's first skyscraper, the Kasumigaseki Building. Now, as China's building boom continues to expand, the company is getting a huge chunk of its business from its neighbors. In fact, Hitachi now supplies 15 percent of all of China's elevators—and China now buys 60 percent of all the elevators sold in the world.

As the Council for Tall Buildings reported earlier this year, China is way ahead of any other country when it comes to tall construction: For six years in a row now, it's had the most 650-feet-plus buildings of any nation. In 2013, it completed 37 such buildings. This year it could—and almost definitely will—top that. The lesson in all of this? Consider investing in Hitachi. [Japan Times]