Batman Star to Help Convert Pittsburgh Brownfield Site into Green Manufacturing Hub
by Amanda Waltz
June 23, 2021
Movie lovers know him for playing the hero of director Tim Burton's hit 1989 Batman adaptation. But in Pittsburgh, actor Michael Keaton is a native who started his career in the city, including bit roles on the locally produced children's program Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
Now Keaton has set his sights on another role, that of job creator, specifically in the area of green technology.
This spring, it was announced that Keaton partnered with Nexii Building Solutions Inc. and Trinity Commercial Development to convert an industrial brownfield site in Pittsburgh into a sustainably built plant that will manufacture a sustainable concrete alternative. The three will pursue the project under the entity Trinity Sustainable Solutions.
The plant will mark the latest in the expansion of Nexii, a green construction technology company based in Canada. Currently, the company has five existing plants, including one in Hazleton, Pa. However, the Pittsburgh location will be the first plant to be built entirely from Nexii's proprietary, sustainable concrete alternative, Nexiite.
Not only that, Keaton has promised that the plant will provide "300 green, healthy job opportunities" and help revitalize his hometown in a way that "helps folks right now while paving the way for future generations.”
“Growing up, many of my neighbors worked in Pittsburgh’s famous steel plants; the lore was that a businessman would take an extra white shirt to work because the one he started with would get so dirty from the mills’ polluted air that he’d have to put on a fresh one to come home,” says Keaton, who will have an ownership stake in the plant.
Founded in 2019, Nexii has set out to develop an "innovative whole building solution with the potential to significantly reduce the construction sector’s impact on the environment."
Nexii CEO Stephen Sidwell says the building and construction sector is responsible for 39% of climate pollution, basing the number on a 2017 report from the World Green Building Council. While damning, the report also said that efforts to "decarbonize the sector are progressing," citing developments like the "deployment of low-carbon and energy-efficient technologies" and "better building design approaches and solutions."
Based on the company's goals, Nexii wants to become part of those decarbonization efforts. The company boasts that its "whole-building solution" results in a 75% faster build time compared to traditional construction methods, with buildings being assembled in mere days, and with "nearly zero on-site waste."
The Nexii website claims a number of other benefits from using their materials, including that Nexiite panels are a "lower-carbon alternative" to traditional building materials such as wood, concrete, and steel, and that Nexii buildings comparatively produce 30% fewer carbon emissions. Beyond that, Nexii boasts that its buildings can also withstand disasters such as flooding and wind damage.
Before setting its sights on Pittsburgh, Nexii had already made strides into green construction. In 2020, the coffee chain Starbucks used Nexii to build its first sustainably-constructed store. The chicken franchise Popeye's similarly looked to Nexii for a restaurant completed in May 2021. Both sites are located in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
While Starbucks and Popeye's are commercial examples, Nexii points out that its system is suited for mixed-use and multi-family residential and single-family homes, as well as for being retrofitted on old buildings.
Trinity Sustainable Solutions is working with the economic development organization Pittsburgh Regional Alliance to locate a brownfield site for the Pittsburgh Nexii project, slated to open in summer 2022. Once a site is chosen, the plant will be built from the lightweight Nexiite panels, which will be shipped to Pittsburgh from the Hazelton location and bolted together on site.
The Pittsburgh and Hazleton plants will then "supply eco-friendly construction materials to building and retrofit projects across the East Coast and the Midwest."
“This partnership with Michael Keaton, Nexii, and Pittsburgh is ideal,” says Trinity Commercial Development president Craig Rippole. “Not only will the new plant provide manufacturing jobs but the environmentally friendly panels being produced will also provide real estate owners and developers, like me, with a cost-competitive building solution that significantly reduces carbon emission. This is a true sustainability-based economic recovery initiative.”