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Tom Klemens

Here's a chance to find out what's on tap for that empty lot down the street—and find a market for your concrete—before any signs are erected.

Emporis, a Web-based information service in Darmstadt, Germany, tracks buildings over 10 stories tall in more than 50,000 cities worldwide from the planning stages through approval, construction, and completion. Through e-mail alerts or by checking the data online, producers can follow the building construction markets in their areas and learn about trends.

With a focus on bigger commercial or public properties, the company says its database now lists 160,000 buildings on 100,000 streets. It tracks up to 100 pieces of data for each building, including location, type, structural material, usage, and construction status. Photographs, many taken during construction, contribute to the depth of information.

The company offers a variety of products, some of which are free and quite interesting. Pointing your browser to www.emporis.com/en/bu allows you type in a city name and a building name if you know it to see the status of a particular project.

If you look for Wells Street in Chicago, you find 26 buildings. Select Vetro as an example of one under construction and you'll get basic information (324 feet high, 31 floors above ground, scheduled for completion in 2008, with participation of Concrete Structures of the Midwest, PERI Formwork Systems, and others) and have the option of viewing construction photos.

Subscription features

And here's where it gets interesting: Much more information, such as materials, usage, and drawings, is available if you subscribe to Emporis Research. Seven hundred editors from around the world continuously update the information. The company has established hundreds of internal standards to ensure the data is comparable. This reliable, in-depth information can be useful in finding business opportunities in your market.

The company offers three subscription levels. The “regular” subscription allows one user to view company data, query building data and export data, typically in an Excel spreadsheet. It costs $1855 for one year.

A $190 “express” subscription permits one user to view data for a 24-hour period, but without any data export capabilities. This is ideal for those who are looking for only limited information and do not need constant updates. An “IP” option is offered to entire companies with access for all employees as well as to schools and universities for students on campus. Pricing for this option is customized.

The endeavor's prototype was launched in 1996. In 2004 the name was changed from Skyscraper.com to Emporis, reflecting a change in the long-term focus of the organization away from skyscrapers and toward buildings in general.

Emporis is relaunching its Web site in stages to accommodate growth. The self-contained Emporis Research platform has already rolled out at http://research.emporis.com.

Emporis.com now leads to the corporate Web site. This is where you can access the older Emporis Buildings. Meanwhile, I look forward to the rollout of the revamped Emporis Buildings platform.

If you decide to browse a bit before signing up for the in-depth data, make sure to set yourself a time limit. It's easy to spend hours visiting jobsites around the globe.

I learned that the one high-rise in my town, finished in 1972, wasn't meant to be a stand-alone. Three others just like it were proposed for the site but were never built.