Rise to the top
Advancements in technology and new infrastructure projects can only take the elevator & escalator industry to greater heights
BY MITALEE KURDEKAR
The rise of skyscrapers and urbanisation projects signals the rise of the elevator and escalator industry. It’s as simple as that. However, what it also signals is a challenge, one of transporting a greater number of people to their destinations, faster yet safely, while consuming lesser amounts of energy. That’s quite a big ask, yet elevator and escalator companies are rising up to the challenge, by developing better technologies and improving efficiencies.
Making way for green
One of the biggest drivers today is ‘green technology’ and the eco-friendliness of products. Sustainable urban development is becoming one of the prerequisites for successful urbanisation. Buildings consume 40% of the world’s energy and elevators can account for up to 10% of a building’s energy needs. Hence selecting an energy efficient elevator and/or escalator makes a difference. Life cycle analysis shows that the largest part of an elevator or escalator’s carbon footprint is created when it is in use.
“As urbanisation drives the increased need for housing, the need for smart and efficient technologies to support growth will become a must. This is why there is an increasing demand for ‘green’ elevators,” says Sebi Joseph, president, Otis India. Otis has come up with the Gen2 elevator containing a ReGen drive that can reduce energy consumption by up to 75% compared to conventional systems with non-regenerative drives. ReGen drives can additionally be fitted to an existing system so that energy generated by the elevator can be fed back into the building’s grid.
In addition, existing Otis elevators can be made energy efficient by adding the Variable Frequency Drives (VF drives) in the door system and elevator control system, in order to optimise power consumption by better regulating power. Auto-fan and auto-light switch off operations can also be adopted and LED lights can be used to replace tube lights inside the elevator car, for more sustainable operations.
Kone too has developed its own sets of innovations. “We were the pioneers for gearless technology and launched the Kone MonoSpace, 20 years ago. These elevators with the EcoDisc hoisting machine combined with other energy saving solutions consume 50-70% less energy than a traditional hydraulic elevator,” says Amit Gossain, managing director, Kone Elevator India. In fact, the MonoSpace and MiniSpace, both gearless products, have been developed especially for the India market by Kone’s Indian R&D team. Kone has reduced the energy consumption of its volume elevators over 70% from 2008 to 2012.
But that’s not all. There are a number of other unique innovations that feature in elevators and escalators today. The Kone Polaris Destination Control System registers additional information like the desired destination floors and the number of waiting passengers, thus improving system performance by reducing stops and saving energy.
Otis’ Compass Destination Management System uses Otis’ patented technology to constantly evaluate real-time passenger traffic to improve flow and travel time in busy mid and high-rise buildings. Instead of using standard hall call buttons; passengers register their specific floor in the lobby before they enter the elevator. The system assigns passengers traveling to nearby floors to the same car, which minimises the number of stops per trip and significantly reduces car crowding as well as passenger wait and travel times. The technology has also been adapted to integrate with security systems.
“Otis’ Gen2 Switch is an easy to install, single-phase battery operated, elevator system that will be a boon to parts of India that suffer from frequent power cuts,” says Joseph. In the event of a power failure, a battery pack continues to operate the elevator up to a 100 stops in a regular eight-storey building, thus eliminating the inconveniences of a power outage. It only uses 230 volts single-phase power supply, making it a ‘Plug & Go’ model, while its compatibility with alternative energy sources like solar panels makes it truly sustainable.
Also, their Web-based EMS Panorama system enables building staff to monitor, control and manage a full range of operation-critical functions for an elevator from any computer with an Internet connection. On the other hand, the Elite Service is a priority service that goes beyond maintenance, to offer Otis’ customers faster response times and guaranteed uptime.
Schindler, which was contracted to contribute 140 plus units to the much talked about Terminal 2 development at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) in Mumbai, has provided a variety of features as part of the 130 units set up so far. Higher passenger handling capacity; a higher degree of safety factors such as IP ratings and fire ratings; remote monitoring systems; fire alarm systems integration; seismic operation; energy efficiency; and an access control system are some of the characteristics of these products, which included 47 units of the S 9300 AE model of escalators and 26 units of the S 9500 AE model of moving walks.
“Schindler understood the unique design needs of the project and seamlessly integrated its solutions to facilitate mobility within the terminal. Our ‘solution advantage’ hugely facilitated the mobility of passengers at Terminal 2. Schindler anticipated and assessed the project’s technical requirements, in terms of engineering and installation of the equipment, and accordingly augmented its teams with the skilled technical manpower to execute the same in the scheduled time,” says Antony Parokaran, CEO, Schindler India Private Limited.
Kone too has a series of fresh features integrated into its products. Their JumpLift System is an advanced technique that was developed to improve efficiency and safety of building construction. This solution requires less labor and it enhances vertical transportation and efficiency during the construction of the building.
They have also developed the world’s flattest autowalk technology, which makes designing locations for and installing autowalks considerably easier. In fact, the Kone InnoTrack autowalk is so flat that, unlike conventional
solutions, it can be installed entirely on the floor level. “The Ultra Rope and People Flow Intelligence solutions are the latest technology additions into our portfolio,” adds Gossain.
Of course, the Indian market poses very precise challenges, especially given the development of the Tier II and III sectors as well as Smart Cities. There is an increasing need to ferry a vast number of people at a time. For these purposes, elevator and escalator companies are developing India-specific products as well as increasing production capacities to meet the growing demand in the country.
For instance, Otis has started to manufacture its latest product, the Gen2 Infinity, at their Bengaluru facility, to meet local demand. This higher speed (1.75m per second) elevator will cater to mid-rise residential buildings, which are fast becoming a common feature across smaller cities in the country today.
“In a move to strengthen our presence in the country, we have expanded our Bengaluru manufacturing facility by tripling the size of the factory footprint and doubling the manufacturing capacity,” professes Joseph, adding that they have also expanded their engineering capacity at their R&D center in recent years.
The introduction of smart cities and urbanisation in Tier II and III cities mandates the construction of very tall towers, and the use of elevators during construction is an important means to help expedite the building progress. While hundreds of people have to work on these buildings every day, the movement of working people during construction is great challenge.
Kone has come up with a unique solution where the lifts can be kept in use on the lower floors, even as they are being extended to the higher floors. In a nutshell, the elevator also grows with the building. This will become more and more critical in the coming days, as taller and taller buildings are being built and time lines shrink.
It is apparent that elevator companies are quickly assessing and adapting to the requirements of urban India. The arrival of refined technology is also coupled with changes in the intrinsic elements used in elevators today. Stainless steel steps in escalators are being replaced with aluminum ones that are more wear-resistant and reduce the usage of material, thus cost too. It is also imperative that electronics used for the products are in keeping with the technological advances that are happening, so that companies are able to support the customer at any given point of time.
The life of an elevator is almost 20 years; hence vendor companies have to be equipped with technology that can provide support during the entire life cycle of the product. After all, infrastructure is a long-term investment. Hence India must invest right the first time around.