Michael Keaton Answers the Call for a Greener Pittsburgh

The former Batman is investing in sustainable manufacturing in an effort to turn the Steel City green.

Michael Keaton

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Actor Michael Keaton, best known for iconic film roles that have pitted him against everyone from the Joker to Spider-Man, is flexing his financial superpowers to help bring green jobs to his beloved hometown of Pittsburgh. 

“The great story is this is a city that could go from one of the dirtiest cities in America, at one point, to one of the greenest cities. It’s absolutely 100% poised to do that,” the actor told Reuters. “If you can put people to work and have some even modest impact on climate change, why would I not want to be involved in something like this?”

In partnership with local real estate developer Craig Rippole, Keaton has co-founded a new firm— Trinity Sustainable Solutions—to build a new green manufacturing plant on a brownfield site leftover from Pittsburgh’s days as an industrial titan. The plant, utilizing technology from Canada-based Nexii, will produce building panels called “Nexiite” that require a fraction of the materials and energy of traditional concrete. 

“The Nexiite is a proprietary blend of materials that, mixed with sand and water, creates a material that has a number of very unique properties,” Nexii chief executive Stephen Sidwell told Western Investor in 2019. “It is light-weight and stronger than concrete, the same density as granite, and can be stronger than a steel stud.”

Nexxi’s proudest demonstration of its panels is a first-of-its-kind, sustainably-constructed Starbucks in Vancouver. Built in only six days using custom Nexiite panels, the LEED-certified project featured near-zero construction waste and reductions in carbon emissions of 30%. You can see the construction unfold in the time-lapse video below.

The Steel City Embraces a Green Future

Keaton’s decision to invest in expanding the production of a concrete alternative comes at a particularly critical moment in the fight to reduce global emissions. Cement, a primary component of concrete, is estimated to account for up to 8% of human-produced carbon dioxide.

According to London-based think tank Chatham House, annual global production of cement is expected to rise from four billion tons to five billion tons over the next 30 years. Developing and supporting the rise of low-carbon alternatives, in particular as demand for concrete grows in a post-pandemic global economy, will be critical to achieving emissions reduction goals. 

“Together, the building and construction industries account for 39 percent of global emissions; the time to reinvent the way the world builds is now,” added Sidwell in a press release. “We’re honored to have so many passionate and knowledgeable champions in our corner as we scale Nexii rapidly to meet increased demand for cost-efficient green buildings.”

The new Nexii plant is expected to be completed by the summer of 2022 and will be built using the same sustainable material it creates. Those panels will be produced by another new Nexxi site in Hazelton, Pennsylvania. Once online, both plants will produce and deliver eco-friendly panels to construction sites across the East Coast and the Midwest. 

For Pittsburgh, where officials recently committed the city to achieve the goal of eliminating carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, the addition of Nexii is a step in the right direction. Beyond the site’s construction, the plant itself is expected to create hundreds of permanent “green” jobs. According to Keaton, his investment will help the city achieve these critical goals, while also providing opportunities for its citizens to transition to new careers in the green economy. 

“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,” Keaton said. “Nexii’s new plant will create more than 300 green, healthy job opportunities and help revitalize my hometown in a way that helps folks right now while paving the way for future generations.”

View Article Sources
  1. Lehne, Johanna, and Felix Preston. "Making Concrete Change: Innovation in Low-carbon Cement and Concrete." Chatham House, 2018.