Magnetic Elevators – The Future of People Moving?

magnetic elevators

The elevator revolutionized the modern city. With this one invention, dramatic skylines popped up around the world, and buildings soared into the sky. And then…. innovation stagnated; elevators followed in the same – vertical – footsteps as 19th century pioneers. Until now. German company ThyssenKrupp is perfecting their cable-free, multi-directional elevator system. With the right partner, the elevator can, once again, become a trailblazer and open a world of possibilities for architects and designers.

An Innovative Solution to a Common Problem

ThyssenKrupp’s multi-dimensional elevators may seem futuristic – and wildly imaginative – but they are firmly rooted in practicality. Collaborating with the right companies can help designers and architects strike this balance. The challenge that ThyssenKrupp sought to overcome, according to a representative: “Traditional elevator systems are constantly battling bottlenecks.”

This prompted architects to approach the firm about a solution. “The answer was either to increase capacity or increase speed. When you increase speed too quickly, the human body reacts. So we decided to increase capacity.” But how?

Magnetic levitation.

Going Up? How About Across?

Currently, elevators rely on a system of weights, counterweights, cables, and pulleys that allow them to move vertically within a shaft. This basic system has been in place for over 160 years with little dramatic change. ThyssenKrupp’s alternative allows multi-dimensional movement – and an answer to architects’ query of how to reduce bottlenecks.

Instead of cables, their system uses magnetic levitation (or maglev) technology. Propelled by magnets, ThyssenKrupp’s “MULTI” technology will move elevators in a loop – rather than in a simple vertical shaft. This way, several elevator cars can run on the same track at the same time – vertically and horizontally. They’ll operate at a speed of 5 meters per second with stops about every 50 meters.

The benefit here: cars will stop every 15 to 30 seconds, dramatically reducing the wait time for passengers. How important is this? Consider that New York City office workers spend about 16.6 years of their lives waiting for elevators. Ask them how important shorter wait times are!

ThyssenKrupp estimates MULTI can increase transport capacity by up to 50%. Congestion problems: solved. Now, on to the possibilities! What does the future have in store for architects, designers, and the (once) humble elevator – and how can they make sure to stay on the cutting edge of innovation?

The Sky’s the Limit

Multi-dimensional elevators may be rooted in practicality, but where they branch out from there – that’s up to the innovative minds of designers and architects. MULTI not only transports passengers, it has the potential to transform buildings. Imagine the design innovations that these changes (and a sound partnership with firms that can help execute them) can make a reality.

More Room

ThyssenKrupp estimates their system will reduce “elevator footprint” by 50%. MULTI requires smaller shafts and can increase buildings’ usable area by as much as 25%. This is 25% in which architects and designers can flex their creative muscles and create penthouses, C-suites, conference rooms, office space, apartments…anything their clients want and need.

In addition, this smaller elevator footprint will save construction costs for owners and increase revenue opportunities through rentable space – a lasting reminder of the many benefits of innovation.

Energy Efficiency

The energy consumption of elevators is difficult to measure because it depends on a variety of factors, from the number of floors and cabs to the type of lift system and amount of traffic. While a general answer is hard to arrive at, there is no doubt that elevators use a great deal of energy. Design is one of the reasons why.

The ThyssenKrupp representative explains, “Traditional elevators use a lot of energy when jolting into motion. That peak of energy doesn’t happen with MULTI. Instead, it has a smooth and easy way of consuming energy.”

Additionally, the materials are much lighter. This opens the door to LEED certification and ecofriendly systems that save energy and reduce carbon footprints – all while inspiring building owners, end-users, and future designs.

The End of…Conformity

Building height will not be limited by the height of the elevator shafts, nor will the configuration be limited by vertical alignment. Architects will be free to think more dynamically, freed from the physical restraints of the current elevator shafts.

What does all of this mean? That architects and designers don’t have to think in terms of up and down. They can zig; they can zag. They can remove nonstandard, impossible, and unfeasible from their vocabularies. Instead, they can replace them with next-generation, leading-edge, and, simply, wow. Forward-thinking companies, like ThyssenKrupp and others at the forefront of the industry, can help architects and designers stay on the leading edge of engineering and technology – while seizing the opportunity to go boldly where no elevator has gone before.

ThyssenKrupp is building a test tower for their MULTI system in Germany, which is expected to be complete in 2016. After that, passengers may be pushing more than just “up” or “down.” But even more exciting is what’s next. A generation of innovative buildings that allow architects and designers to reach further than today’s buildings and redefine skylines across the world. By partnering with a forward-thinking elevator company, you can get in on the ground floor and go…any which way you please.

Want to learn more about the expert? Read Brian Godshall’s bio here.