The headlines were somewhere between hilarious and unbelievable. “Builders forgot elevator shafts on finished Skyscraper,” read the NY Daily News. ” UPI reported “Spain skyscraper with no elevators nearly complete”, and the Daily Beast echoed “Near-Complete Spanish Skyscraper Forgets Elevators.”
The claims came from a July 20th story in Spain’s El País newspaper about the financial troubles of the Intempo building. The article discusses the series of problems the builders have encountered during construction and towards the end reads (my free translation): “In January 2012 there was a new surprise: they had not taken into account the shaft for the elevator, as can be seen in the promotional designs which do not not show the spaces typically dedicated on the roofs to the elevator engines. ‘The space had been calculated for a block of 20 stories,’ according to the same sources”.
I will admit that I have no idea what the El País article is referring to, but clearly journalists in both Spanish and English-speaking media interpreted these sentences to mean that the builders had forgotten to build elevators into the buildings.
If they did, however, they had fixed this problem by April 2013, when a blogger visited the building, rode in one of the elevators and wrote about it. She describes the trip as being incredibly fast, less than one minute to go up 45 stories. According to the blogger, that’s in “slow mode”. In fast mode, it can make the ~600 feet climb in about 30 seconds. The blogger mentions that each of the two towers has 3 elevators. Four elevators make the trip to the penthouses in the middle. So in all, it has 10 elevators. You can see one of the elevators and the space for another one in her blog posting.
She does say, however, that they had to take the stairs to make it to the roof.
Whatever El País meant in its story, it’s certain that the rest of the media that ran with the “no elevators” story did not do the most basic fact-checking of either visiting the building, looking at the blue-prints, calling the construction company, or even googling. I found the blog posting I referred to above by searching for “ascensores intempo“. “Ascensor” is the Spanish word for “elevator”.
The real question here is how much can we trust the media, when journalists seem to rush to write stories, repeating what they think they read somewhere, without doing the most minimum fact checking? To be fair, so far it does not appear that the major English language media has ran with the story, but I wonder if it’s only a matter of time. It’s troublesome enough that any journalist can be so careless to not even try to check their facts, even when we are dealing with what sounds like a very improbable mistake.