The Race To The Top: The World’s Next Fastest Elevator:

If you had an appointment on the 4th floor of a building, would you wait for the elevator or go up the stairs? President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, has claimed that as a “modern woman”, she prefers to use the stairs. The American radio & TV writer, Andy Rooney, once noted that many people anyway feel uneasy waiting for a lift with a lot of strangers: “They don’t know what to do, so some press the button repeatedly as though it will help”.

For anyone concerned about being trapped between floors in a malfunctioning lift, the statistical risk of that happening – according to KJA Consultants Inc – is a mere 1 in 5,000. Instead, the best reasons for always taking the stairs, in the opinion of “” is that it provides you with a form of physical exercise for which you don’t have to pay (for instance, to a health club), is good for your heart, reduces your cholesterol levels, and can often be faster, especially during peak times, than waiting for the elevator to arrive to take you to your destination. It also apparently helps the environment by lessening energy consumption.

Research conducted by John Newbold of the building consultancy SVM Associates, together with the health technology company StepJockey, has revealed that employees in modern office buildings spend up to fifteen minutes a day waiting in lift lobbies, which is an “unacceptable waste of their time” and moreover that elevators expend as much as 36% more power than claimed by their manufacturers. The average wait, concluded Newbold, “should be under 25 seconds, so if it takes 60 seconds, as is frequently the case, this can result in more than 400 lost hours in a working week in a large office”. Not only is productivity hit but the “excess energy costs and associated carbon emissions are potentially enormous”. StepJockey also points out that stair climbing is officially classified as a “vigorous” form of exercise, burns up more calories than jogging and hence significantly improves our cardiovascular fitness.

None of these factors, however – as The Independent journalist Adam Taylor has reported – have deterred the manufacturers from competing fiercely to produce the world’s fastest lift. The world’s first safety lift, he observes, was installed by the American company Otis in a hotel in New York City: “It travelled five floors at a speed of less than half a mile per hour”. Britain’s fastest lifts, in the City of London’s Leadenhall building, travel at 18 mph. This is substantially slower than the “record-breaking 42.8 mph” achieved by the world’s current fastest elevator at the Shanghai Tower, which was built by Mitsubishi Electric and takes passengers up the 632 metre-tall building in just 53 seconds. As Taylor emphasises, available data indicates that by 2020, due to the country’s rapid urbanisation, 40% of all lifts will be located in China, which “accounts for 60% -80% of new installations globally each year. The second-largest lift market, India, is less than one-tenth the size”.

In fact, China already possesses five of the world’s ten fastest lifts – the remaining five being in Chicago (John Hancock Centre: 20.5 mph: Building Height – 457 metres), Tokyo (Sunshine 60 Building: 22 mph: BH – 240 metres), Dubai (Burj Khalifa: the world’s tallest skyscraper with a BH of 830 metres but a lift speed of just 22 mph), the Yokohama Landmark Tower in Japan (28 mph: BH 296 metres) and the Taiwan 101 in Taipei (37.7 mph: BH 508 metres).

Taylor assesses that, because assembling these lifts costs “a fantastic amount of money”, the market is beginning to slow. He quotes a Toshiba communications representative, Yoshinori Inoue, as declaring that “The competition for speed is over”. Yet in the same article, Taylor refers to plans by the South Korean company Hundai to begin testing constructions capable of 50 mph. It remains “unclear”, though, to what extent it will realistic or indeed safe to exceed the Shanghai Tower velocity levels: “One recent study has suggested that 51.4 mph would probably be the limit before passengers get sick. Travelling down quickly is even more difficult. Go too fast and the body thinks it’s falling”.

Dr Gina Barney, a British expert in “lift technology and vertical transportation” concurs with this view. In an interview with BBC, she has stressed that protecting passengers from discomfort is a big challenge for high speed lifts: “Probably the most significant problem with high-speed travel in buildings is that you’re going to get pressures on your ears changing – so people suffer some pain.”Canny Elevator, a Chinese company based just outside Shanghai, is nevertheless proceeding with the building of a 3,100-foot tower which, so it has announced “ will be the tallest in the world”.

Filed under: Healthcare, Society | Posted on August 21st, 2018 by Colin D Gordon

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