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Rise of Elevators in the World of Sustainability

Infrastructure | Feb, 2021

With the growing influx of urban dwellers and rising sea levels, the developers are constructing high rise buildings, creating the need for incorporating vertical transport in the infrastructure. Installing elevators and escalators makes mobility convenient, especially for people with disabilities. These vertical conveyances are the marvels of engineering, shuttling passengers and freight, up and down hundreds of stories. While the traditional rope-and-pully systems have existed for hundreds of years, many companies have now begun to explore a wide and somewhat outlandish array of alternatives due to increasing concerns about the environment. An elevator inside a typical skyscraper might weigh around 80,000 pounds and hoisting all that mass requires a tremendous amount of energy. Considering, half of the world’s population living in cities, the energy demand is expected to increase significantly, therefore efficient vertical transportation can become a pressing challenge. For this purpose, various new technologies have been introduced to reduce energy usage of buildings and contribute to the effort of cities in lowering their energy consumption. One of the most sustainable solutions that can result in efficient vertical transport are green elevators.

The eco-friendly elevators operate with much less energy and require relatively less building space for installation, and thus play a major role in the growth of green buildings. Here are some of the green strategies adapted in elevators to lower energy consumption and make them sustainable.

Green Strategies for Elevators

Regenerative Drives

Of all the upgrades, regenerative drive technology has been the most significant innovations in the latest generation of energy-efficient elevator technology. When an elevator moves up with a light load and comes down with a heavy load, the lift system generates more power than it consumes, which results in considerable amount of energy loss as power is lost in the form of heat in traditional elevator drives. The additional heating could also result in additional cooling costs to the building owner depending on the size, duty, and number of elevators in a building. The regenerative drive replaces the traditional braking resistor and can be used alongside the elevator drive. The drive transforms mechanical power into electrical power and pumps it back into the electrical grid where the energy can be utilized by another elevator or electricity loads. In this way, the regenerative drives can save up to 70% of energy and reduce the strain and cost of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, eliminating excess heat in the building, that would have been otherwise wasted.

Machine-Room-Less (MRL) Technology

Manufacturers redesigned motors and all other equipment housed in a machine room to fit into the hoistway, making some space-saving improvements to eliminate the need to build and supply energy. MRL technology enables less heat dissipation and energy consumption than the larger versions previously used. The door drive motors can enter a standby mode or efficiently recover from the removal of power when not in use and support variable door-open and -close times. Thus, the factored energy usage supports the overall control strategy. The power feeders for MRL are significantly reduced to a more compact design, eliminating the cost and environmental concerns associated with buried hydraulic cylinders. The MRL elevators utilize gearless traction type machines that result in superior performance as they operate at faster speeds and increase the perception of quality in comparison to conventional hydraulic elevators.

Destination Control Software

As buildings are getting taller, there is a growing need to optimize lift operations to reduce waste time. The efficient elevator destination control system allows authorised users to gain quick entry into the elevator. Unlike conventional elevator control system that only registers the desired travel direction, the Destination Control Software (DCS) incorporates the desired destination floors and number of waiting passengers to improve elevator convenience. The significantly improved system results in increased efficiency for building owners, enhanced comfort and reduced journey time for passengers, and improved security and peace of mind for residents. Prior information about the number of travelers and their destination floors through destination software can result in short transits and fewer immediate stops. Since skyscrapers have multiple floors, the DCS organizes groups of passengers traveling to a specific floor in one trip rather than stopping at multiple floors for various individuals. The elimination of wasted energy is a positive change, reducing the user wait-time and increasing handling capacity by up to 30%.

Environment Friendly Retrofitting Options

Replacing all the incandescent light fixtures in old traction units with LED lamps is one of the simplest ways to reduce energy consumption. LEDs use only 4% of the energy consumption when compared to traditional bulbs. Besides overhead cab lighting, even buttons and floor lights can be replaced with LEDs, which reduce cooling load and saves energy. Moreover, substituting DC controllers with energy-efficient AC controllers can further help to minimize heat production. Also, seasoned hoisting and hydraulic elevators use hazardous lubricants that may accidently leach into the ground water supply. These black lubricants can be replaced with eco-friendly solutions such as minerals, vegetables, and non-petroleum based synthetic oils.

Sustainable Finishing Solutions

Replacing interior finishes with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other sustainable finishes can improve the indoor air quality significantly. Some materials that are typically used in the elevators can start off-gassing (release of chemicals into atmosphere via evaporation) within a few months of installation that can result in harmful breathing atmosphere and lead to allergic reactions, headaches, and migraines. So, it is best to install low-VOC coatings, sealants, and adhesives to ensure enhanced indoor air quality. Bamboo flooring, linoleum rather than vinyl composite tiles (VCT), recycled and cradle-to-cradle (C2C) carpets, and wall coverings are some of the sustainable material possibilities derived from rapidly renewable resources and recycled products.

According to TechSci Research report “Global Elevator & Escalator Market By Type (Elevator, Escalator, Moving Walk Ways), By Service (New Installation, Modernization, Maintenance & Repair), By Elevator Technology (Hydraulic, Traction & Machine Room-Less Traction), By End-User (Residential, Commercial, Institutional, Infrastructural and Others), By Elevator Door Type (Automatic and Manual), By Region, Competition Forecast & Opportunities, 2025”, the global elevator and escalator market is projected to grow from $ 85 billion in 2019 to around $ 105 billion by 2025, owing to the rising development of high-rise commercial and residential buildings, increasing capital inflow into the real-estate sector, and growing infrastructure development and construction activities. Moreover, improving after sales services, proactive maintenance and modernization of equipment and use of UltraRope elevator technology for high-rise buildings are expected to positively influence the global elevator and escalator market in the coming years.

Major Breakthroughs in Elevator Technology

Growth in construction, ridership and new innovations have transformed the way elevators work. Here are some of the major advancements in elevator technology.

Smart Elevators

Elevator manufacturers are making adjustment in design and technology for enhanced speed and safety with advanced hi-tech features. For instance, when a passenger presses the button for a specific floor they wish to visit, an indicator directs them to specific elevator that will take them to their destination faster. The advanced routing allows efficient mobility of passengers, particularly during high-traffic hours. In the same fashion, internet-connected elevators work by sending real-time alerts to building managers about a problem, which saves money and time on repairs.

Powered with linear motors, manufacturers have designed cable-free elevators that enable mobility in horizontal as well as vertical direction. The cable-free elevators enable the cabs to move in linear directions along the magnetic rails, which saves energy and reduces the building’s carbon footprint by a significant amount than conventional elevators.

Augmented Reality (AR) Diagnosis

With augmented reality, technicians can dig into the problems by familiarizing themselves with the machine room layout and then discover how it all fits together. The latest technology gives technicians the ability to visualize components and catalogue of its parts right in their field of view with the assistance of AR headsets, which can result in significant energy and time saving. The maintenance intervention can be performed four time faster with remote and hands-free access to technical and expert information.

Innovative Control Systems

Elevators have move beyond the simple push buttons for going up and down. Nearly all elevator manufacturers are developing new innovative control systems that asks passengers to input their destinations before setting foot into the elevator. Collecting data on which floor the passengers are traveling, the elevator system intelligently selects which elevator should pick up which passenger to minimize transit and wait times. The modern innovative control system is highly beneficial for buildings with several elevators in the lobby, which directs passengers traveling to different floors from different elevators. The innovations in the control system mainly resides within the software and sophisticated algorithms that are used to dispatch different elevators, thus enhances the overall experience of the users by optimizing elevator schedule and maintaining safety.

According to TechSci Research report India Elevators and Escalators Market By Type of Carriage (Passenger, Freight & Others), By Type of Machinery (Traction & Hydraulic), By Type of Door (Automatic & Manual), By Weight, By End User, Competition Forecast & Opportunities, 2013 – 2023”, India elevators and escalators market stood at $ 1.2 billion in 2017 and is projected to cross $ 2 billion by 2023, on the back of rising urbanization, introduction of Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA) and increasing number of high-rise residential and commercial buildings across the country. Moreover, government initiatives such as Smart Cities Mission and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban), and growing adoption of smart, fast and environment friendly elevators are expected to aid growth in the India elevators and escalators market during the forecast period. Furthermore, rising demand for elevators with Automatic Rescue Device is anticipated to boost the country’s elevators and escalators market in the coming years.