'Wonkavator' no longer movie magic

'Wonkavator' no longer movie magic

Image courtesy of Thyssenkrupp

As the rise of concrete jungles shrinks building footprints, architects and engineers face increasing challenges on how to enable occupants to effectively and efficiently maneuver through those towering structures.

Elevators have long been – and remain – the solution of choice.

That’s mostly because there’s really not an alternative. Except for the stairs.

But hoofing it up dozens of floors isn’t speedy or a physical capability for everyone.

The classic movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” offered a glimpse of the future of elevators, with a car moving in all sorts of directions.

Multidirectional elevators no longer are the stuff of magic. thyssenKrupp has made them a reality.

The German-based company developed MULTI, a solution some consider the biggest leap forward for the elevator since the creation of the elevator some 160 years ago.

MULTI abandons the traditional cables and ropes that pull up and lower cars along an interior shaft. The new technology relies on magnets and electric frequencies to enable elevators to travel from one spot to another.

The design enables more occupants to more quickly move around a facility. Instead of one cabin per shaft moving up and down, MULTI offers multiple cabins operating in loops like a metro system inside a building.

Because MULTI requires fewer and smaller shafts than conventional elevators, incorporating the technology can increase a building’s usable area by up to 25 percent, representing extra revenue from the additional rentable/leasable space.

MULTI is best suited for new high-rise buildings, but eventually, it will be an option for retrofits. OVG Real Estate, one of the largest project developers in Europe, was the first company to install MULTI in its new East Side Tower building in Berlin.

The elevator already has garnered worldwide attention, winning gold at the Edison Awards and being named one of TIME's Top Inventions of 2017.

Proud Green Building recently spoke with Dennis Van Milligan, communications specialist for thyssenkrupp, about the company’s solution and its impact on the changing commercial landscape.

Proud Green Building: What spurred the concept for these elevators?

DV: From a historical standpoint within thyssenkrupp, we had magnetic levitation, or maglev, technology for high-speed train systems. From there, we applied that technology to our accelerated moving walkway, ACCEL, which ultimately inspired the MULTI. Beyond capability, it also came down to need.

By 2050, it’s estimated that 70 percent of the global population will live in urban areas and, as a result, space will be much more limited. But that reality isn’t just 30-some years away. Urban infrastructure and mobility challenges exist today. Depending on the building’s height, conventional elevator footprints can take up to 40 percent of the available floor space. MULTI, on the other hand, can increase a building’s usable space by 25 percent because it requires fewer and smaller shafts.

PGB: The elevator has largely functioned the same way it has for the last 160 years. Is this the biggest change for elevators since its inception?

DV:Yes. MULTI is a ground-breaking innovation that will change the way we move, live and work. It will revolutionize building design and mobility with its ability to move horizontally, vertically or even diagonally, empowering architects and designers to create structures that meet the increasing demands of urbanization.   

PGB: How does it work? Are they like standard elevators?

DV: With MULTI, there is a stack of permanent magnets on the car, and then on the hoistway or guiding path from the car, there is a stack of electric coils with frequency drives that pulse and turn those coils on and off to basically move the car in the direction you want to move. Basically, utilizing linear motor technology, MULTI allows multiple cabins to operate in loop, similar to a metro system in a building.

PGB: How will it revolutionize how people maneuver in and around buildings?

DV: First and foremost, it will significantly reduce passenger wait time. Consider this: In one year, office workers in New York City spent a collective 16.6 years waiting for elevators, but only 5.9 years actually traveling in them. But looking bigger picture, the current trend is building upward rather than outward, but there are limitations with traditional elevators. Basically once you get to 2,000 feet, traditional wire suspension ropes aren’t feasible because they can’t support the weight of the cabin and their own weight. With MULTI, there is no limit.

Industry has tried to compensate for taller buildings by running a faster car, but you’re running a single cabin up and down the hoistway as people pile up in the lobby. MULTI, on the other hand, is a continuous hoistway running multiple cars in and out, as needed. And down the line, you’ll no longer see this hard division between how you get to a building and how you transport within a building. Over time, you’ll see elevator cars or passenger cars that transgress out of a building into other infrastructure. 

PGB: What are the limits of the elevator, and how fast do they travel?

DV:The MULTI is designed for 5-7 meters per second, which would be 1,000 to 1,400 feet per minute in U.S. terms. Because you can run multiple cars in the hoistway, you don’t necessarily need those super high speeds.

PGB: From a sustainability standpoint, what sort of impact can/will these elevators have?

DV: Global energy demand will increase by 20-35 percent over the next 15 years, with cities accounting for two-thirds of this increase. In urban environments, buildings are one of the biggest consumers of energy. Elevators, in particular, can consume as much as 10 percent of a building’s energy. MULTI consolidates several carriages into fewer shafts, reducing the footprint by approximately 50 percent.

PGB: Do the units tie back into a building's monitoring system? 

DV:Yes, it will tie into a building monitoring system and in addition will be equipped with MAX, our predictive maintenance system. MAX collects continuous data from each elevator and uses this data to predict needed service requirements and failures of equipment.

PGB: The company has said the units will greatly reduce carbon emissions. How is that accomplished?

DV:MULTI uses as much as 60 percent less peak power when compared to traditional elevators, significantly decreasing carbon footprint.

PGB: How will you overcome the price tag to get these elevators into more buildings worldwide?

DV:Total cost of ownership has to be considered beyond initial cost, as the MULTI will allow developers and building owners to sell significantly more space due to the elevator’s decreased footprint. In a traditional high-rise structure, for example, the MULTI can provide up to 50 percent of the core space that would traditionally be consumed by a traditional elevator system. So looking at that cost reduction versus the cost of equipment, you can achieve a positive return on investment in a single-digit number of years.


Topics: Architectural Firms, Automation and Controls, Building Owners and Managers, Construction Firms, Elevators, Energy Saving Products, Engineering Firms, Great Commercial Buildings, Highrise Residential, Interiors, Office Buildings, Sustainable Communities, Technology, Urban Planning and Design


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