THE NEXT LEVEL IN VERTICAL TRANSPORTATION
by Lennon Richardson, VerticalCity.org
How Can we Efficiently Transport Thousands of People Up, Down and Between Mile-high Towers?
This has always been one of the biggest unanswered questions concerning vertical cities.
Using conventional elevators in a vertical city is unrealistic. The higher an elevators is designed to go, the longer and heavier it’s cables must be. This means a larger engine is needed to power the lift and heavier breaks are required to stop it. Each additional floor requires a disproportionate amount of energy, maintenance and upkeep. The higher the elevator is designed to go, the less efficient it becomes. This is why we are often required to transfer between elevators when ascending to the top of large buildings.
Is there a Rope for the Future?
A breakthrough technology called UltraRopes promises to make elevators taller, more durable and more energy efficient. These lightweight, carbon fiber cables are designed to allow passengers to ride to the top of Kingdom Tower, soon to be the world’s tallest building, without transferring. UltraRopes will take elevators to new heights, but the higher an elevator travels, the longer it takes to come back down. This makes living and working on upper levels less desirable, despite the great views.
The solution to long waits has been to design buildings with more elevators. Since each elevator requires its own shaft, the taller we build, the more space we must dedicate to vertical transportation. In some cases, elevators and escalator take up 40 percent of the building’s total space. Kingdom Tower will be over 200 stories tall. Even with double decker elevators, less than one percent of that spaces can be used by passengers at any given time!
At the End of the Rope
Bound by so many limitations, industry experts have sought to develop a ropeless elevator solution. During the 1990s extensive testing was conducted but these studies found that “ropeless is hopeless.” These studies however, where limited by the technology available at that time.
More recently ThyssenKrupp Elevator proposed a solution inspired by the technology employed in Japan’s new maglev (magnetic levitation) bullet trains. This technology uses powerful magnets to propel trains forward at record breaking speeds as they levitate four inches above the pathway!
Similar to a metro system, this new elevator design incorporates self-propelled cabins that run in a loops: up, across, down, across and up the building again. This will allow multiple cabins to travel in the same shaft.
ThyssenKrupp Elevator estimates that their design will increasing capacity by 50 percent. Improved capacity will reduce wait times as well as the amount of space required by elevators. This new system also promises to save power making it more economical and environmentally friendly.
ThyssenKrupp Elevator plans to have a prototype in operation by the end of 2016. If all goes well, this new technology will allow resources and residence to efficiently travel throughout vertical cities of the future.