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New skyscraper lab will test elevators high above Atlanta

Kevin Lavallee, CEO of TK Elevators' North American operations, stands at the top of the company's new elevator testing facility, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, that towers over the Atlanta Braves stadium and surrounding skyscrapers northwest of Atlanta. The 420-foot-tall tower is set to become fully operational early next year. (AP Photo/Jeff Martin)
Kevin Lavallee, CEO of TK Elevators' North American operations, stands at the top of the company's new elevator testing facility, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, that towers over the Atlanta Braves stadium and surrounding skyscrapers northwest of Atlanta. The 420-foot-tall tower is set to become fully operational early next year. (AP Photo/Jeff Martin)

ATLANTA (AP) — One of the world’s largest elevator towers will soon be opened to test elevators of the future as well as current ones high above the Atlanta suburbs.

TK Elevator's 420-foot (128 meters) tower is set to become fully operational early next year, company executives said this week on a tour of the new research lab and elevator testing facility.

“This is going to transform our industry,” said Kevin Lavallee, CEO of the company’s North American operations.

It’s the largest elevator test tower in the Western Hemisphere, according to the company and general contractor Brasfield & Gorrie, which built it.

The tower with its multiple elevator testing shafts looks down into the nearby Atlanta Braves’ stadium and offers stunning views of the Atlanta skyline. It's next door to the company’s new North American headquarters in Cobb County, just northwest of the city.

Construction on the tower began in 2019 with 3,000 tons of steel, and the structure is now in place, with interior work still ongoing as TKE prepares to fully open it in February.

Among concepts being tested in the high-rise: twin elevators, which use the same elevator shaft but operate independently, with one car above the other, Lavallee said. Twin elevators save space and are able to carry passengers more efficiently, he said.

An environmental chamber will be able to test how elevators operate in extreme environments, such as the arctic cold in Canada and searing heat of other parts of the world, said Steve Allen, vice president of engineering.

TK Elevator, once part of the German firm ThyssenKrupp, was sold last year and became a separate company. It chose Atlanta for its North American headquarters partly because of the engineering talent in the metro area and engineering schools such as the Georgia Institute of Technology, Lavallee said.

The company invested more than $200 million in its headquarters complex, which will be home to more than 900 workers.

As the company plans for a grand opening of the tower in February, it's aiming to open up much of the space to the public, including students for tours of the facility, Lavallee said. One reason for that is to generate interest in engineering and the elevator industry among students who might one day enter the field, he said.

“I think we have a real opportunity with the students," Lavallee said.

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This story was first published on Oct. 16, 2021. It was updated on Oct. 19, 2021 to show the company's CEO of its North American operations is Kevin Lavallee, not Kevin Lavelle. Also, the name of the company is TK Elevator, not TK Elevators.

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