TAK Mathews, Principal Consultant, TAK Consulting

TWIN elevators running at global tk headquarter in Essen Germany

The 146.6m high Pyramid of Khufu (also known as Pyramid of Giza) in Egypt, completed in 2570 BC, and the 122m high Jetavanaramaya in Sri Lanka on the Indian sub-continent completed in 301 AD (source: https://www.realmofhistory.com) stand testimony to man’s tall ambitions from prehistoric times. Closer home, we had the 73m Qutub Minar, a brick minaret of a comparatively newer 1220 AD vintage. Without exception, these were all structures principally driven by religious or political compulsions and not for human habitation.

The reference to a tall building for habitable purposes can be found in the bible “… And they said, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name……..”(source: Genesis 11: 4). Researchers like the late Professor J E Gordon have estimated that this building could probably have reached a height of 2 km. The biblical reference goes to elaborate that the building did not get completed as God intervened and confused the language so that people had no option but to abandon the project and disperse around the world. However, in all likelihood, the disruption would not have required God’s intervention.

In reality, till the middle of the 19th century, the tallest buildings for human habitation were limited to 6 floors as climbing so many stairs was just not practical (reference Wikipedia). Elisha Graves Otis’ “All Safe Gentlemen” demonstration of a safe elevator at the New York World's Fair at the New York Crystal Palace in 1853 changed all that. This one invention singlehandedly provided the impetus to realistic tall ambitions that continue to alter the skylines of the cities of the world.

After the structure, for which the know-how and material have existed from ancient days, what made a tall building a sustainable reality is the invention of the safe elevator. Today’s reality is that at many projects, landscaping and toilet fittings take priority over elevators through all stages of the project – design, procurement, execution and operation.

Challenges in Elevatoring
Low priority allotted to elevatoring

This is the challenge number 1, which in turn sets the base for the other challenges.

Low understanding of the science
The science of traffic analysis which forms the foundation of elevatoring design is complex. Unfortunately, not many in the field are well versed in this critical science. It is highly unlikely that the expert providing the elevatoring recommendation would have a copy of the elevatoring bibles like Gina Barney’s 400-page Elevator Traffic Handbook or George Strakosch’s 600-page Vertical Transportation Handbook, let alone have put in the effort to master this science.

Challenges to Vertical Transportation

With the availability of powerful software to carry out traffic analysis, many designers venture to provide design recommendations without the required mastery of the subject. As Richard Peters, the author of Elevate, while introducing his popular traffic analysis software warns, “Elevate is an extremely powerful traffic analysis tool. However, it will not make the user an elevator traffic analysis expert.”

The lack of understanding and appreciation also extends to how the recommendations are implemented. For instance, the placement and sizing of elevators tend to be dictated by the aesthetic requirements or FSI/FAR compulsions without recognising that the quality of service that can be provided by 8 elevators in a group is not the same as 2 groups of 4 elevators or 4 groups of 2 elevators.

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