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Elevator installation prep begins at Kingdom Tower

KONE has started work on the installation of elevator system guiderails at Jeddah’s Kingdom Tower

KONE is currently working to install elevator guidelines at Saudi Arabia's Kingdom Tower.
KONE is currently working to install elevator guidelines at Saudi Arabia's Kingdom Tower.

KONE has initiated the first stage of elevator and escalator installations at Saudi Arabia’s 1km-tall Kingdom Tower.

The Finnish lift firm is currently fitting elevator guiderails at the project, which is being developed by Jeddah Economic Company (JEC) and is set to become the world’s tallest building on completion.

“I am delighted we are now at the stage of taking the next leap with KONE in the construction of the Kingdom Tower,” said Mounib Hammoud, CEO of JEC, owner and developer of the Kingdom Tower and Kingdom City.

“It will not only be the world’s tallest building – it will also be the greatest. Soaring into the sky it is a vertical city which will define luxury living,” he added.

This work, as well as the eventual installation of the KONE elevator cars, will then progress as the Kingdom Tower’s central structure rises over the coming years, prior to its projected completion in 2018. Once the guiderails have been fitted, the installation of the elevator system itself can begin. KONE expects to reach this point before the end of 2016.

The Kingdom Tower, designed by Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill Architecture, is being built by Saudi Bin Laden Group and will have the world’s fastest double-deck elevators with travel speed of over 10 m/s. It will house offices, a Four Seasons Hotel and serviced apartments, residential apartments, and the world’s highest observation platform.

For a building with such unprecedented height, KONE will deliver: the world’s fastest and highest DoubleDeck elevators, supported by its UltraRope technology, as well as the latest ‘People Flow Intelligence’ systems.

KONE started looking at ways to develop high-rise technology in the late 1990s, and uses its own Finland-based test facility to conduct experiments beyond what has currently been built.

In tall buildings, the height an elevator can reach is limited by the weight of steel ropes needed to hoist it. The rope has to pull up not only the car and the flexible travelling cables that take electricity and communications to it, but also all the rope beneath it.

The job is made easier by counterweights but in a lift 500m tall, steel ropes account for up to 75% of the moving mass of the machine. Shifting this mass takes energy, so taller lifts are more expensive to run. Making the ropes longer would risk the steel snapping under the load. But KONE says it is able to reduce the weight of lift ropes by around 90% with UltraRope.

Its engineers say carbon fibres are both stronger and lighter than steel and have great tensile strength, meaning they are hard to break when their ends are pulled. That strength comes from the chemical bonds between carbon atoms: - the same process that gives such strength to diamonds.

According to Johannes de Jong, KONE head of technology for large projects, the steel ropes in a 400m-high lift weigh about 18,650kg. An UltraRope for such a lift would weigh just 1,170kg.
Besides reducing power consumption, lighter ropes make braking a car easier should something go wrong. Carbon-fibre ropes should also, according to de Jong, cut maintenance bills, because they will last twice as long as steel ones.

He also said carbon fibre resonates at a different frequency to other building materials, which means it sways less as skyscrapers move in high winds. This, he points out, is what tall buildings are designed to do. At the moment, a high wind can cause a building’s lifts to be shut down. Carbon-fibre ropes would mean this happened less often.

Hammoud said: “Building the tallest tower in the world is about human ingenuity and the strength of the materials used. Based on this premise, KONE is the only vertical transportation service provider in the world capable of delivering what we need at the Kingdom Tower – specifically the capability of travelling at a speed of over 10m per second with DoubleDeck elevators to reach the highest liveable floor in the world in 52 seconds.

“In addition, the high-speed elevators will rise 660m to the observation deck, making it the world’s highest elevator rise.

“Furthermore, with the use of KONE UltraRope, which is one-third of the weight of traditional ropes, we will be able to fit the DoubleDeck elevators with normal machines, a huge advantage that will enhance the sustainability of the Kingdom Tower by consuming much less power.”

The design for UltraRope was pioneered at a research facility close to the town of Tytyri, which includes the world’s tallest elevator test tower. This drops to a level 350m below ground.

“People always ask why go down when you are developing the means to travel to the top of tall buildings,” says Santeri Suoranta, KONE’s director of high-rise technology.

“Cost is one reason – this mine shaft was already in place and we just needed to adapt it. We turned the conventional idea of a test tower upside down. As more and more people start to live in cities space becomes more important so buildings get higher and elevators become more and more important.”

The mine – part of which is still in operation and producing limestone - provides an ideal testing environment because of the temperature and climatic conditions it offers as well as the long shaft.

Suoranta added: “Tytyri is the only test shaft in the world where elevator speeds of up to 17 m/s can be reached, although for us 10 m/s is the usual speed due to the demands pressure changes put on the human body.”

The company first installed the technology in the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore and Suoraanta said it was performing even better than expected and energy usage was lower than had been predicted.

The company is also working on using the technology in 10 other projects across the world.

“This new lightweight cable will let buildings soar ever upward,” said KONE vice-president Noud Veeger. “Architects can build higher and they can also build greener as the new system uses far less power and its cables are far lighter.

“At present in any high-rise building to get to the top a change of lifts is necessary. But a single ride from the ground to the summit will add so much more of a wow-factor for people. That is what our work has developed,” he concluded.

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