If you’ve been lucky enough to travel to the top of London’s tallest skyscraper the Shard, then you may have been surprised to have had to change elevators in order to make it all the way to the top. This transfer floor, or “Sky Lobby” as it’s more commonly known, is a necessary inconvenience for anyone wishing to reach the summit of the building and enjoy the panoramic views of London city.
But why is it the case, that even in the modern era of engineering there exists no elevator that can traverse the entire 306m of the Shard in one journey? It all falls down to a centuries old arms race between architecture and technology.
With the same technology to traverse the 306m of the Shard, ascending a mile-high tower (1.6km) would require changing lifts as many as 10 times. This amount of transfers would be a costly expense that would require a lot of floor space to operate, not to mention, it would get tiresome reaching your penthouse suite every day.
Finnish elevator company Kone have changed the game with the invention of UltraRope; a new kind of cable made from carbon fibre in place of woven steel. The UltraRope is a strong and lightweight design that will allow lifts to travel up to 1km in a single run – double what’s currently possible with a steel cable. Although steel cables are strong, what’s been holding them back is their weight. As lift cables get longer, the weight of the cable itself can far outweigh the car and the passengers, requiring bulkier and impractical machinery to operate it.
The UltraRope weighs in 90% lighter than its steel counterpart, meaning that far higher limits can be reached without the necessity of transfers.
UltraRope is the future of skyscraper lift technology. Lift maintenance companies could also find themselves fitting the new cables in other existing models to modernise and reduce weight; saving customers money by reducing the energy required to power their lifts.