Experts discuss elevator innovations in the GCC

The world’s leading elevator manufacturers are being asked to supply innovative products and technologies to the Gulf’s construction community, and not only within the super-tall segment. James Morgan reports

Toshiba supplied 34 units for Damac Towers by Paramount.
Toshiba supplied 34 units for Damac Towers by Paramount.

Owing to the regional penchant for super-tall structures, the services of international elevator suppliers have been in high demand in the Gulf since time immemorial. As developers continue to reach skywards, this demand shows no sign of abating, but other segments are also clamouring for the attention of lift manufacturers.

Nicolas Alchal, managing director for the UAE at Kone Middle East, says that a selection of factors are driving elevator-related demand. “After many infrastructure investments last year, we can see growing populations [in the Middle East], and greater investment in tourism and industry to compensate for the low oil price,” he says. “There are also developments in housing and property segments – not only high-rise.”

M J Mohamed Iqbal, managing director of Toshiba Elevator Middle East, is also confident in the future, but notes that stagnant oil prices have affected business.

“Current levels of demand are slightly low, due to the slump in oil prices,” he tells Construction Week. “Dubai’s construction sector is active, although very cautious. The Abu Dhabi market is also [down]. Projects in Saudi Arabia are moving at a slow pace, although the pilgrimage city of Mecca is vibrant and active. We are very optimistic about this market; we expect it to pick up in the coming years.”

Encouragingly for Iqbal, Toshiba has secured a plethora of GCC contracts in the residential, hospitality, and commercial sectors during the past 12 months.

In the UAE, these include an 11-unit order for Saraya Towers; a 13-unit order for Horizon Towers; 34-unit order for Damac Towers by Paramount; a 12-unit order for Damac Heights; a 26-unit order for Rosemont Hotels & Residences; and a 72-unit order for Phase 2 of the Villa and Mansions project at Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid City. In Saudi Arabia, Toshiba has been awarded a 109-unit contract for Phase 4 of the Jabal Omar Development; a 100-unit order in Serafi Mega City; and an 11-unit order for Damac Twin Tower.

Kone Middle East, meanwhile, has scooped major contracts at two of the region’s largest infrastructure projects. “Doha Metro and Bahrain International Airport are some of Kone’s major GCC projects this year,” says Alchal.

Pedro Russo, Thyssenkrupp Elevator’s business process and communication manager in the Middle East, has also enjoyed a lucrative year in the GCC’s infrastructure, commercial, and residential markets.

“We have been awarded contracts to supply more than 1,000 elevators and escalators for Riyadh Metro and Doha Metro,” he reveals. “In the UAE, we are currently working on Al Maryah Central in Abu Dhabi, and City Walk in Dubai, as well as residential projects in Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, and Egypt.”

All market segments tend to be led by firms that place importance on research and development (R&D), but innovation is especially prominent within the elevator industry. Toshiba’s Iqbal says GCC clients are increasingly looking to transport people in an environmentally friendly manner.

“Everybody is concerned about the environmental impact [of elevators],” he notes. “To keep up with this trend, Toshiba has introduced green elevators, with features such as high-performance gearless traction, roller-guide shoes that eliminate the requirement for lubrication, maintenance-free buffers, and light-emitting diode (LED) illumination.”

Kone has also developed technologies to meet the region’s evolving requirements.

“We can see the trend of high-rise buildings driving technologies to different levels,” Alchal explains. “Kone UltraRope, for instance, is a revolutionary hoisting technology that enables elevators to travel distances of more than 1,000m. It enables developers to build even taller buildings.”

Kone’s JumpLift, meanwhile, has been specifically developed to facilitate high-rise construction activities. “[It] is a construction-time use (CTU) elevator with a temporary machine room that can be moved upwards as work progresses,” says Alchal.

The firm is also pushing forward with services related to connectivity and diagnostics in a bid to improve predictability for its customers. “The Kone People Flow Intelligence (PFI) portfolio includes four product areas: access control, destination guidance, information communication, and equipment monitoring,” Alchal continues. “These solutions are modular, flexible, and third-party compatible, [so] customers can either take the whole integrated package, or pick and choose the [products] that complement their existing systems.”

Not to be outdone, Thyssenkrupp has developed a selection of systems that depart from conventional elevator technologies. “Thyssenkrupp’s Twin facilitates two independent elevator cars in one shaft, while Multi harnesses rope-free linear motor technology to move multiple cars in a single shaft, both vertically and horizontally,” explains Russo.

With ongoing and planned infrastructure, residential, and commercial projects across the GCC – not to mention events like Expo 2020 and the 2022 FIFA World Cup – firms that prioritise R&D look set to continue to dominate the regional market.

Toshiba’s Iqbal is confident that demand will follow an upward trajectory for the foreseeable future. He concludes: “We concentrate on medium- and high-rise projects but, at the same time, we also target premium low-rise developments. Overall, we have been able to secure orders in all three sectors across the region. We are currently operating in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, and Azerbaijan, and we expect to venture further into the Middle East during the coming years.”


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