A new high-rise elevator technology was announced today that is set to break industry limits and enable future elevator travel heights of 1 kilometer – twice the distance currently feasible. The KONE UltraRope™ is a completely new hoisting technology that eliminates the disadvantages of conventional steel rope and opens up a world of possibilities in high-rise building design – an important consideration as urbanization brings increasing numbers of people to cities.
The product announcement was made by KONE President and CEO Matti Alahuhta at an event preceding the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat’s Annual Tall Buildings Conference (CTBUH) being held in London.
”We are on the brink of something big,” said Alahuhta. “The benefits of KONE UltraRope versus conventional elevator hoisting technologies are numerous and indisputable. We are proud to introduce this innovation that we are certain will revolutionize the elevator industry for the tallest segment of buildings across the globe.”
Comprised of a carbon fiber core and a unique high-friction coating, KONE UltraRope is extremely light, meaning elevator energy consumption in high-rise buildings can be cut significantly. The drop in rope weight means a dramatic reduction in elevator moving masses – the weight of everything that moves when an elevator travels up or down, including the hoisting ropes, compensating ropes, counterweight, elevator car, and passenger load. Due to the significant impact of ropes on the overall weight of elevator moving masses, the benefits of KONE UltraRope increase exponentially as travel distance grows.
Antony Wood, Architect and Executive Director for the CTBUH commented, “This is finally a breakthrough on one of the ‘holy grail’ limiting factors of tall buildings – that is, the height to which a single elevator could operate before the weight of the steel rope becomes unsupportable over that height. So it is not an exaggeration to say that this is revolutionary. However, it is not just the enablement of greater height that is beneficial – the greater energy and material efficiencies that are of equal value.”
A traditional elevator can rise to about 500 meters, requiring transfers at sky lobby levels to reach the top floor of a supertall. Steel rope is very heavy and rigid requiring additional looping wheels at great heights. The energy neccessary to operate increases exponentially with the distance involved. According to KONE, in a 640 meter tall building with ten elevators, the steel rope would weigh 186,500 kg as opposed to just 11,700 kg of UltraRope. In this example, the steel would need 1,180 MWh to operate but UltraRope would need just 1,050 MWh.
KONE UltraRope is extremely strong and highly resistant to wear and abrasion. Elevator downtime caused by building sway is also reduced as carbon fiber resonates at a completely different frequency to steel and most other building materials. KONE UltraRope has an exceptionally long lifetime – at least twice that of conventional steel rope – and thanks to the special coating, no lubrication is required in maintaining it, enabling further cuts in environmental impact.
All of this adds up to unprecedented eco-efficiency, durability and reliability in future high-rise elevator travel. “We are proud to introduce this innovation that we are certain will revolutionize the elevator industry for the tallest segment of buildings across the globe. The benefits of KONE UltraRope versus conventional elevator hoisting technologies are numerous and indisputable,” said KONE President and CEO Matti Alahuhta.
KONE UltraRope has been developed and tested rigorously both in real elevators and simulation laboratories at KONE’s research and development facilities in Finland. Since 2010, it has been tested in operation at the world’s tallest elevator testing laboratory, KONE’s Tytyri facility built over 300 meters underground adjacent to an active limestone mine. Properties like tensile strength, bending lifetime, and material aging are just some of the qualities that have been measured.
Urbanization is a key driver for the development of cities and the elevator industry. More than half of the world’s population already live in urban areas, and the United Nations estimates that by 2050 seven out of every 10 people on the planet will be living in cities. Building upwards is seen as the sustainable urban solution, and the number of tall buildings built around the globe has increased rapidly in recent years.
Increasingly, tall buildings are also growing taller. Nearly 600 buildings of 200 meters or more are currently under construction or planned to be built over the next few years, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. While there are currently three buildings in the world that top the 500-meter mark, there are plans for 20 more such buildings to be built in coming years. Additionally, there are currently some 3,000 buildings in the world that could benefit from modernization with KONE UltraRope.
In remarks at the London CTBUH conference, architecture critic and broadcaster Tom Dyckhoff, commented “Architecture is both a science and an art. It’s always made the biggest leaps when advances in either propel the other forward. This leap in technology lays down the gauntlet to which the art of architecture must now respond.”
Watch a video:
Image courtesy KONE