How elevator systems market is evolving in GCC
Syed Shamsul Haq, general manager of Elevator Division, Al-Futtaim Engineering, shared his insights on the ever evolving elevator systems market of the GCC
fmME: What are some of the ways that elevator systems are evolving?
Syed Shamsul Haq: The elevator as we know it today was first developed during the 1800s and relied on steam or hydraulic plungers for lifting capability. In the mid-19th century, the first power passenger elevator debuted in a U.S. department store. In 1887, with the advent of electricity, an electric elevator was developed in Baltimore, using a revolving drum to wind the hoisting rope. Motor technology and control methods evolved rapidly. In 1889 came the direct-connected geared electric elevator, allowing for the construction of significantly taller structures. By 1903, this design had evolved into the gearless traction electric elevator. Multi-speed motors replaced the original single-speed models to help with landing-leveling and smoother overall operation.
fmME: What are some of the ways that the concept of ‘smart’ has started to influence the sector’s development?
SH: In 1935, the first double deck elevator was officially unveiled as an innovative way of handling traffic flows. This would allow passengers on two consecutive floors to be able to use the elevator simultaneously, thereby significantly increasing the passenger capacity of an elevator shaft. With elevator speed increasing, more and more skyscrapers could now be constructed.
With the advent of the computer and the micro-chip, elevators overcame the limitation of using a DC motor with a generator set into the usage of AC machines controlled by varying voltage as well as its frequency. Different types of group control systems became possible. With further enhancements in the fibre technology, serial communication became possible, which led to the ground breaking Destination Control System – a unique system where a passenger gives a call from the lobby using a keypad (similar to a telephone dial pad) rather than from the inside of a cabin. This has proven to be a very efficient, energy saving and effective methodology – especially in a large group of elevators of mid-rise buildings.
fmME: How much of an impact has the drive of sustainability had on how elevator system design is addressed?
SH: As environment concerns came into focus, elevator companies had to find ways of being more effective not only on cost but also on efficiency. In the late 90s’, this gave rise to the concept of machine room less elevators, which would use smaller machines (against the standard elevators with machine rooms and large machines). This avoided the need for a machine room completely, which gave the customer considerable savings not only during the construction phase but also on electricity during operation.
fmME: What would you identify as being the current challenges of the elevator systems market?
SH: While architects look to build unique structures, developers look to increase its tenant space to the best possible extent - a good portion of which is occupied by lift shafts (based on the height of the building). A solution that came about was the development of a twin elevator model, where two elevators were able to operate in the same lift shaft, while at the same time maintaining a safe distance between each other and transporting passengers efficiently.
fmME: How do you see elevator systems evolving over the next decade?
SH: Research is already on-going for reducing the weight of the ropes, as this is a heavy component of the elevator in high rise buildings. Reducing the weight will therefore increase the possibility of increasing the distance that elevators can travel, which in turn will give rise to taller buildings.
Magnetic levitated elevators (much like the high speed trains), wherein the ropes are completely removed! These elevators would have smaller shafts than regular systems. Presently, there is a limitation to the number of elevators that can run in a shaft. Magnetic levitation and conjoined elevator shafts changes all that by having cars that can move sideways, and even diagonally. This allows elevators to work more like cars on a highway, switching lanes to pass an elevator above or below it that has stopped. This would mean that the passenger would still get to his destination quicker, even if the elevators are not of high speed.
Vacuum elevators have come into the picture recently, which runs on the principle of ascending push generated by the difference in pressure between the top of the car and the bottom of the car.