What Elevator Technologies Enable Vertical Transport in the World’s Tallest Buildings

Vertical transport places huge demand and mechanical stress on elevator technologies in the world’s tallest buildings. Consider a skyscraper that is used by thousands of people with each person using an elevator, on average, 6 times a day. If there are 8 elevators installed in a high-rise building, the traffic would easily reach 48,000 rides per day.

The total energy consumed by different elevator parts that have to be kept in motion daily can easily cross 130,000 kilowatt-hours every year. This constant motion and repeated friction can make it very difficult for moving parts to maintain form and tensile strength, leaving them highly susceptible to damage.

While undertaking the installation of elevators in skyscrapers beyond one mile in height, architects were severely limited by the strength of the rope that held up the hoistway. It was observed that beyond a theoretical length of 500 meters, the steel rope supporting the weight of the elevator cab would become too heavy to support its own weight. This is why towers such as the Burj Khalifa had separate elevator series beyond certain threshold stories.

The situation changed when elevator designers started work on the Jeddah tower.

KONE’s Ultrarope

KONE elevators was the first to solve the problem of vertical elevator hoist rope limit by inventing the ‘ultrarope’. The ultrarope is an ultra-light rope with a carbon fiber core that is surrounded by high friction coating. This combination of super-strong carbon fiber with a coating that is extremely resistant to wear and abrasion, results in a hoist rope that is difficult to sway even when strong winds blow and eat into elevator uptime.

The glittering centerpiece of the city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, yet to be completed, features a 660 meter elevator rise supported by KONE’s ultrarope, for possibly the world’s tallest tower to be. Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands landmark, consisting of 3 adjoining towers crowned by a common rooftop and featuring 55 stories, became the first public building to have completed the installation of an ultrarope elevator in 2010.

ThyssenKrupp’s Magnetically Levitated Elevators

Carbon-fiber rope is not the only technology being tested to solve the problem of tensile strength in high-rise buildings. In 2014, German lift manufacturer, ThyssenKrupp began work on it’s 800-foot-tall test tower in Rottweil, Germany. This technology features elevator cabs moving along magnetically charged pathways that keep the cabs floating against gravity while eliminating friction between moving parts almost completely.

Standing on the edge of the picturesque Black Forest, the tower also boasts of a 760 feet-high observation deck that gives a majestic view of the surrounding countryside for miles around.

Otis and the Shanghai World Financial Center

Standing at over 1600 feet, the Shanghai World Financial Center is subjected to enormous wind speeds that cause building sway. These high-speed winds enter the lift shaft through lift lobbies and can cause noise and vibration. They can even cause elevator doors to malfunction. Elevator engineers for this project used advanced computer modeling to design entrance vestibules that acted as air locks for people who entered or left the elevator lobbies, thus keeping the wind out.

Commercial buildings beyond 16 stories are considered high-rise buildings and require special considerations for building sway and stack effect when designing elevator systems. Premier Elevator Cabs is a full-service elevator design, engineering, production, and refurbishing company servicing Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, and Washington, DC.

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