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Building Skyward


Innovation + Engineering

As the world builds into the heavens through feats of engineering, the challenge of moving people has inspired new solutions to one of urban society’s original inventions: elevators.

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Ido Lechner

Building skyward has enabled mankind to transcend the issue of the shrinking availability of space due to overpopulation. Such structures trademark the intensive use of urban land, which is generally accompanied by economic growth and overall prosperity. But the proliferation of high-rises comes with its own set of issues, chiefly long waiting times for elevators—which jam on occasion—and poor safety measures during lift emergencies. As the ever-growing population and advanced materials give rise to taller edifices, these complications could worsen.

Lance is a business professional running late to a meeting in one such building, located in the heart of Manhattan, where his team grows increasingly frustrated by his absence. As a key player in his enterprise, he represents an essential component in signing a contract with his corporation’s partners, and his tardiness proves detrimental to the slowly ripening relationship. Being that both firms are of great importance, the deal is set to take place on the top floor as a token of significance. Of course, as he makes his way in to the elevator and presses 60, he shoots up maybe ten flights before coming to a spontaneous standstill. Lance is stuck, just two minutes from signing the deal of his life.

For over 160 years, elevators haven’t seen any significant evolution in the way they operate—think single shaft and a rope and pulley system. Of course, there’s the twin elevator which introduces a second elevator in the same shaft, or KONE’s UltraRope technology made of carbon fibre and a special high-friction coating for a more enduring build, but the general design remains unimaginatively consistent.

And though these inching enhancements have ascended us to otherwise inconceivable heights, they’ve also limited the way we construct our buildings. How many elevators will a 100-floor building need to efficiently service everyone in it? How much space within the structure will housing so many elevators require? Perhaps, in a not-too-distant future, the current model will be due for an upgrade.

The MULTI elevator, showing the cabin
(black) with its innovative turning
track system (silver).

MULTI, the world’s first rope-free elevator, heralds a new era of mobility in buildings.

  • The MULTI elevator, showing the cabin (black) with its innovative turning track system (silver).

  • MULTI, the world’s first rope-free elevator, heralds a new era of mobility in buildings.

Germany-based ThyssenKrupp argue that sometimes the greatest innovations aren’t the ones that build on top of the status quo, but shift sideways. The multinational conglomerate’s MULTI elevator, characterized by a rope-free, magnetic suspension system and the ability to move vertically and horizontally, offers riders an accelerated lift from the ground floor to the roof deck. Moreover, the shafts in which the elevators travel will be able to house more than one cabin at a time, which circulate in a looped fashion similar to the way trains operate. As current escalator-elevator footprints can occupy up to 40% of a building’s floor space, the MULTI system is a space saving alternative that opens possibilities to novel and complex architectures.

As Lance awaits the repairmen to release him from his claustrophobic situation, he tries phoning his team to no avail. With no mobile signal, the only thing he can do is calm his nerves as the technician makes his way downtown for what seems like an eternity.

Now, let’s imagine things played out in the exact same way for our friend Lance, only that the facility was equipped with the brand new MULTI system...

...As he gets in to the elevator and presses 60, he shoots up maybe ten flights before coming to a spontaneous standstill. Lance is stuck, just two minutes from signing the deal of his life. Surprised yet composed, he hits the emergency button, and within 15 to 30 seconds, another car ‘floats’ to his location, attaches to his cabin and completes the journey to the top floor where his team, partners and contract await.

Rottweil’s elegant elevator Test Tower
is 246m high and will have a public
viewing area.

  • Rottweil’s elegant elevator Test Tower is 246m high and will have a public viewing area.

“Every year, New York City office workers spend a cumulative amount of 16.6 years waiting for elevators, and 5.9 years actually inside them. This data illustrates how imperative it is to increase the availability of elevators” Andreas Schierenback, CEO of ThyssenKrupp

“Every year, New York City office workers spend a cumulative amount of 16.6 years waiting for elevators, and 5.9 years actually inside them. This data illustrates how imperative it is to increase the availability of elevators,” says Andreas Schierenback, CEO of ThyssenKrupp. “As the nature of building constructions evolve, it is also necessary to adapt elevator systems to better suit the requirements of buildings and high volumes of passengers. From the one dimensional vertical arrangement to a two dimensional horizontal/vertical arrangement with more than one or two cabins operating in each shaft, MULTI represents a proud moment in our history of presenting cutting-edge transport technologies that best serve current mobility needs.”

The Rottweil Test Tower, which stands at an impressive 246m, is the world’s tallest elevator tower, and will be the first outfitted with the MULTI system. Its completion is imminent. Boasting Germany’s highest observation deck, it’s here that the developers will examine the framework’s performance. If each of the twelve elevators’ connecting channels can withstand the resonance of the blowing winds in the small town’s empty airspace, then the MULTI will surely prove operational in a city environment. Other tested variables include the safety of travelling at speeds in excess of 60 kilometres per hour, efficiency of the built-in brakes and the seamlessness at which the cars are able to transition between shafts.

If all goes well, perhaps Lance’s travels to the Burj Khalifa, Shanghai Tower, One World Trade Center and the CTF Finance Center will welcome him with MULTI’s of their own. According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, cities will need to construct floor space equivalent to 85 percent of the entirety of today’s residential and commercial building stock by 2025, making this one of the paramount challenges of our time. The MULTI system aims to free up enough space to help solve the challenge while further innovation will fill the gap so that Lance and his colleagues will keep looking skyward with confidence for the foreseeable future.


Building Skyward


  • Building Skyward

  • The MULTI elevator, showing the cabin (black) with its innovative turning track system (silver).

  • MULTI, the world’s first rope-free elevator, heralds a new era of mobility in buildings.

  • Rottweil’s elegant elevator Test Tower is 246m high and will have a public viewing area.