Vertical Transportation Technologies Come of Age

June 5, 2006
New technological developments make buildings safer, more intelligent, reliable, and efficient

Elevators, escalators, and moving walks are a critical part of daily life as populations continue to increase, along with the number of people living and working in high-rise buildings. And, with space at a premium, today’s facilities professionals are challenged to make buildings safer, more intelligent, reliable, and efficient - all while maximizing the amount of useable space.

One of the ways this is being accomplished is through technological developments in the vertical transportation industry - which has seen more innovation and new products in the last 10 years than in the last century.

In the United States alone, the market for elevator and escalator products and services is projected to be more than $15 billion by 2007. Fueling this growth are new elevator and escalator system installations, as well as the resurgence of modernization programs to upgrade buildings that were built during the 1970s and 1980s construction boom.

Several of the latest trends in the vertical transportation industry include:

Elevators with Two Cabs in One Shaft
This innovative type of elevator system features two cabs working independently of each other in one elevator shaft (hoistway), which provides increased performance while saving space in both new and existing buildings. For example, in a high-rise building requiring an average of 20 elevators in 20 hoistways, half of the elevators (and the hoistways) could be eliminated, providing significant space savings.

The cabs are arranged with one above the other and are not connected, running independently to different floors using shared guide rails. This enhances capacity; by eliminating elevator shafts, it also saves on building volume. More passengers can be transported quickly to their destinations, and the amount of rentable space is increased. A four-stage safety system ensures that a minimum distance is always maintained between the two cabs. A prerequisite for this system is the use of a destination selection control system.

These types of systems are ideally suited for new construction (where increasing real estate prices put space at a premium) or in modernization projects where passenger traffic has increased (with the need to add additional cabs while the number of hoistways remains unchanged).

Destination Selection Control Systems
To avoid time-consuming stops and help passengers reach their destinations more quickly, destination dispatching systems are utilized to calculate the shortest possible time to the distance instead of the shortest waiting time in front of the elevator. Passengers enter their desired destination before they even get inside the elevator using a touchscreen kiosk, and are grouped according to their destinations; in certain applications, there aren’t even any buttons inside the elevator cabs. These systems realize an average time savings of up to 25 to 30 percent.

Accelerating Moving Walks
For decades, experts have been discussing the possibility of moving walks for distances of 150 to 1,000 meters that allow passengers to enter and exit at normal speed and accelerate much faster in the central section, allowing greater distances to be covered more quickly and in greater comfort (in venues where passengers are covering lots of ground, such as airports or exhibition centers). The latest moving walks feature entry and exit sections that move at 2 feet per second, while the central section accelerates to up to 6 feet per second - twice the normal walking speed.

Stuart Prior is executive vice president of Americas Business Unit at ThyssenKrupp Elevator (, Frisco, TX.

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