More than seven billion elevator rides are taken every day in high-rise buildings around the world. With half of the world’s population living in cities and that figure is expected to rise to 70% by 2050, efficient vertical transport has become an urgent challenge.
To keep pace with the influx of city dwellers and rising sea levels, developers will not only have to build higher, but they will also have to design greener vertical transport, i.e. ways safe and durable to move residents from the ground to the sky.
New elevators already incorporate eco-friendly features like LED lights, water-soluble paint and recycled building materials, but many companies like Eninter Elevators have started exploring a wide range of alternatives to traditional rope and rope systems. of a hundred years ago.
We don’t usually think much about elevators, except for the brief moments when we’re inside. They can make us claustrophobic, uncomfortable or impatient, but these vertical transports are, in fact, an engineering marvel: Elevators not only transport passengers and goods up hundreds of floors, from rooms to hotel, apartments, lobbies and basements, but also carry tons of wire ropes on every trip they take. The voids in which they operate are critical to a building’s structural integrity, and their design can mean the critical difference between sustainable space utilization and return on investment.
Unfortunately, many elevators rely on outdated technology, outdated cabins and harmful lubricants, at considerable environmental and economic cost.
Indeed, elevators generally represent between 2% and 10% of a building’s energy consumption. This includes the materials – interior paints, carpets, control panels, lighting, ventilation systems – and the mechanical technology used to operate the cabin itself.
Each of these elements contributes to a building’s overall rating for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accreditation from the US Green Building Council. Basically, LEED is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement, although many elevator manufacturers contract with third parties to perform life cycle and toxicology studies on their materials. Buildings around the world are eager to get that stamp of approval.
Although LEED released its most recent elevator standards in 2016, green vertical transport initiatives began as early as the 1990s. Machine room-less (MRL) technology, for example, eliminated the room that houses the hydraulic oil and pumps, one of the greatest advances. in elevator design since they went electric a century ago. The roomless elevator consumes less vertical and horizontal space; without a machine room, a building’s flat roof can more easily accommodate large green spaces and solar panels.
Today, manufacturers are primarily interested in regenerative drive systems: elevators that recover part of the energy they consume. For the vertical transportation industry, this means fostering an economy where sustainability pays off.
Paradoxically, elevators need power even when not in use: when cars sit idle after the morning rush hour, for example, elevator systems need to stay powered up so they’re ready. for the next passenger call.
In an effort to reduce energy waste and improve efficiency, Otis Elevator has designed a system called CompassPlus Destination Dispatching, which takes elevators out of service when traffic is light. Another device, its patented Gen2 Switch battery-powered lift, is powered by solar and wind power and uses less energy than a hair dryer. “Otis technology is now used daily in more than 250 cities in more than 50 countries,” said Tom Vining, president of Otis Americas. “To date, we have sold over half a million Gen2 elevators.”
Elevators go green
In fact, Otis is the world’s largest manufacturer of vertical transportation systems, with elevators in some of the world’s most iconic structures, including the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the original World Trade Center and the Burj Khalifa ( which, with 828 meters, it is considered the tallest building in the world). Its elevators date back to the mid-19th century, although the use of hoists even dates back to Roman antiquity. Cranes, windlasses, and capstans (early water-lifting devices based on a kind of swing) may have inspired the use of counterweights in early lifts and elevators.
Thyssenkrup has developed a substitute for oil: a biodegradable canola-based fluid for lubrication, thus avoiding contamination by runoff from the mechanism.
Schindler Elevator Corporation, for its part, has worked to reduce the fuel consumption of its fleet of service vehicles by sourcing materials locally and distributing them to centers, thereby reducing overall transportation emissions. The company has worked with some of America’s best-known green buildings, including the Hearst Tower, New York’s first building to receive LEED Gold certification (it has since received platinum status).
Utilities offer limited tax incentives for “retrofitted” green elevators, and some installers offer on-site meters to prove to businesses and tenants that the energy savings are real. But the capital strategy and the will to sell the products are mainly the work of the elevator manufacturers themselves.
Although elevator modernization is expensive, the dividends are worth it. And when developers embrace sustainable vertical technology, they drive innovation.
Innovation such as Thyssenkrupp’s “TWIN”, a two-level elevator with separate cabins running on the same guide rails, allows smooth movement between the upper and lower areas of buildings over 30 floors, potentially freeing up a factory whole for business or residence. Smaller elevator mechanisms, such as those designed by Otis, replace conventional ropes with flat belts, which lowers weight and reduces air resistance and heat friction. These solutions are attractive to consumers, but can also offer building owners significant reductions in energy costs and a more elegant interior aesthetic.