Sustainable construction through PFEIFER prism


Thomas Hermeking at Coliseum Europe 2023 Image: Coliseum GSVA

With the planet getting hotter by the day, sustainability is a factor which should be factored into while planning any construction project. In the world’s fight against climate change, sustainable construction has indeed become imperative. And PFEIFER, the internationally operative group of companies, is a kind of trailblazer in this field.

An authority on the subject of sustainable construction, Thomas Hermeking joined PFEIFER in 2006 after gaining 15 years of experience working on major projects for general contractors. He has been involved in numerous high-profile projects of PFEIFER Structures.

Sustainable Construction

Sustainable construction means building with renewable and recyclable resources and materials. During construction projects, care must be taken to reduce waste and energy consumption where possible and protect the natural environment around the site.

Sustainable Construction Primary Goal

  • To decrease the industry’s impact on the environment by utilizing sustainable construction procedures, practising energy efficiency and harnessing Green technology.



Memmingen (Germany)-based PFEIFER is an internationally operative group of companies. Its business purpose leads it along the value creation chain of rope and lifting technology, connecting and lifting systems and cable structures – directly to customers’ application tasks.


  • Subsidiaries in 19 countries;
  • Certified productions in four countries;
  • 1,700 employees worldwide;
  • Family business since 1579; and
  • 470 million euro annual turnover.

Thomas Hermeking, Head of Preconstruction, PFEIFER, Germany, in an interaction with ‘Coliseum’ dissects what sustainable construction is all about – RE-THINK, RE-NEW, RE-USE – and while doing so gets into the ‘roof’ of the matter.

Thomas Hermeking shot off by providing a brief background about PFEIFER – “It is a medium-sized group of companies acting worldwide – being established in the United States, China and also in the Gulf region but naturally still circling around Europe. This year we celebrate 444 years of family business.”

He swears by the huge success story of the company as he says, “So one can be sure when one’s next structure goes up, PFEIFER will still be there.”

Success Story

Bearing testimony to the company’s success story as he put in, “Our structural history starts in the early ’70s with the 69,250-capacity Munich Olympic Stadium in Munich, Germany for the Olympics and will not end with our largest ever project – the roof on the 70,240-capacity SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, US.

Hermeking informed that a lot of “change elements” are there while going about with a project on refurbishing a stadium or a stadium roof.

New Stadium Roof

  • Tenants – expectations change;
  • Sports associations – requirements change;
  • Spectators – habits change;
  • Owners – business develops; and
  • Architects – design change.

He added, “People and associations are responsible for the above changes. For the owners, their business develops, their business model change, so they require changes over time. The expectations of a tenant change – what they want from the owner are a moving target. Sports associations keep updating. For example, FIFA updates their catalog of requirements every other year and this also has an impact on the roofs. As far as the spectators are concerned, their habits change and the design firm responsible for the design also wants changes and has to integrate other needs and requirements.”


  • London Stadium, UK

The 80,000-capacity London Stadium (formerly and also known as the Olympic Stadium and the Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park) is a multipurpose outdoor stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in the Stratford district of London, UK. It is located in the Lower Lea Valley, six miles (10 km) east of Central London. The stadium was constructed specifically for the 2012 Summer Olympics and the 2012 Summer Paralympics, serving as the track-and-field venue and as the site of their opening and closing ceremonies. Following the Games, it was renovated for multipurpose use, and it now serves primarily as the home of the Premier League club West Ham United F.C.

Continued Hermeking, “The London Stadium opened in 2012 for the Olympics and the Paralympic Games and it was done according to the regulations of the Olympic Games organization. The legacy was actually the plan to transform it to an athletic stadium after the Olympic Games and dismantling a lot of elements and leave it as it is for multiple uses. This all changed when a possible tenant appeared on the surface – the Premier League team West Ham United F.C. – and they brought with them a lot of requirements and one of them being they are active in UEFA Championships.”

Tailor-made for West Ham United

  • The roof of the stadium was done as per the needs of the Olympic Games and was not wide enough. It had to be redone to suit West Ham needs leading to the dismantling of the steel structure;
  • Dismantling of the old roof starting with the floodlight towers;
  • Dismantling of the steel structure gantries and walkways parts elements and the membrane panels were taken down; and
  • The whole cable net was dismantled and was lowered in a very controlled way and the cables rolled.



  • A new roof structure was put up with a new cable net;
  • Floodlights: Re-used floodlight towers: Went to the mill;
  • Gantries: Partly re-used/recycled;
  • Fabric: Went to the PVC processing plant for recycling;
  • Cables and node points: Went to the mill; and
  • Compression ring reinforced in situ.

He pointed out, “If we consider sustainability, what has been Re-Used or recycled. The floodlights have been Re-Used so we took them down with utmost caution so that they did not get damaged in the entire exercise and could be Re-Used together with a primary structure of them. The rest of the towers went to the mill. The gantries also were partly Re-Used in a new structure and the rest of it was recycled. The polyvinyl chloride (PVC) fabric went to a recycling plant and the cable nets also went to the mill. So, in a way, recycled but not Re-Used. The compression ring stayed in place but needed quite a lot of effort in reinforcement.”


Hermeking said that the London Stadium roof was the “shortest ever lifespan for a roof structure – four years only before it was done anew and the new roof now has already seven years lifespan.”


  • BC Place Stadium, Vancouver, Canada

The 54,405-capacity BC Place is a multipurpose stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Located to the North side of False Creek, it is owned and operated by the BC Pavilion Corporation (PavCo), a Crown corporation of the province.

Re-newing a Roof Structure

  • Opened in 1983 as the world’s largest airdome.

He informed, “The old roof was done back in 1983 and it was used for Soccer Bowl (1983) and afterwards for an Expo in 1986 and then for the North American Soccer League and the Canadian Football League.”

Snow Damage

  • Heavy snowfall led to a tear and finally the roof collapsed in 2007 – “The snowfall was too heavy and too concentrated and the structure could not take the snow onslaught. It was repaired temporarily and used until the start of the renovation in 2010 but had to be RE-NEW!”
  • Reopened in 2010 as an all-season open-air arena with movable inner roof – “The new system consists of a cable net roof covered by membrane on arches and the requirements for the use was that the arena could be closed so that the inner roof can be opened and closed. However, it remains closed because of the climate and the inner roof can be blown up to withstand heavy snowfalls.”



The lifespan had been quite long – 27 years for the structure. The new lifespan is already 17 years.


  • Mercedes-Benz Arena in Stuttgart, Germany

The 60,441-capacity Mercedes-Benz Arena is a stadium located in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, and is home to the German Bundesliga club VfB Stuttgart. Before 1993, it was called the Neckarstadion, named after the nearby river Neckar and between 1993 and July 2008 it was called Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion.

  • Reopened after refurbishment in 1993 with the venue boasting a new roof; and
  • It was used for the Track and Field World Championship.


Roof Work

There were several steps that the stadium and the roof went through to be Re-Used and for continued use:

  • The additional inner roof was changed to a pure soccer arena in 2011.
  • The roof was extended to cover more people or basically all spectators in 2011;
  • The membrane on the top of the roof was changed because the material had reached its end of lifespan – “The membrane change of the main roof was done in 2017 during the Summer break in between the games;
  • Corrosion protection of the supporting steel structure – “We did some maintenance work as regards the corrosion protection of the steel.”;
  • The existing cable net structure was untouched;
  • Dismantling of the old membrane – “We took down the old one in a step process and installed a new PVC membrane.”; and
  • The old PVC membrane was downcycled.



“The lifespan was considerable but not too long – 24 years and now the new roof is already six years.


  • Roof structures are getting more complex and iconic;
  • Complex structures need high performance materials;
  • High performance materials for roofs already have lifespans of minimum 20 years and are improving;
  • Lifespans of roofs are getting shorter because of changing needs;
  • Define purpose = lifespan;
  • Build to purpose not to wishful thinking;
  • Construct for deconstruction;
  • High quality materials need to be recyclable; and
  • Improve recycling loops for all kinds of used material.



Hermeking concluded by asserting, “Stadiums have to be iconic, they have to fit in the place. So, they are engineered in a complex way sometimes to be wider, longer, and lighter so they need high performance materials. These high performance materials are giving lifespans of in the region of 40 to 50 years. At the same time, the projects change after a very much shorter time. So, we all have to come together and define what is necessary, what is the purpose, how long will the lifespan be, and built to this purpose. We need to deconstruct and dismantle in a very efficient and controlled way. And all our high materials need to be recyclable.”

Thomas Hermeking and his team at PFEIFER are working with the primary goal of decreasing the industry’s impact on the environment by utilizing sustainable construction procedures, practicing energy efficiency and harnessing Green technology and hence they swear by the mantra – RE-THINK, RE-NEW, RE-USE. The company is indeed going places and have their mark imprinted on the roof of one of the most spectacular stadia on the planet – the SoFi Stadium.

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