Finnish elevator technology could facilitate supertall building design

Carbon-fiber ropes could offer significant advantages in energy consumption, downtime, compared with conventional steel hoisting technology.

June 11, 2013 |
KONE UltraRope elevator hoisting machine.

KONE Corporation has announced a new elevator technology that could make it possible for supertall buildings to reach greater heights by eliminating several problems of existing elevator technology. The firm's new UltraRope hoisting system uses a rope with a carbon-fiber core and high-friction coating, rather than conventional steel rope. UltraRope is comparatively lightweight, requiring 15% less energy for moving hoisting ropes, compensating ropes, counterweights, elevator cars, and passengers, according to KONE. 

In addition, carbon fiber resonates at a different frequency than steel and other typical building materials, a property that is predicted to reduce downtime attributable to building sway. KONE estimates that the product will only have to be replaced half as often as steel rope. The manufacturer claims that the new technology will make it practical for elevators to travel heights of up to 1,000 meters—twice as high as is possible with current technology. (Elevators in the Burj Khalifa, an 828-meter-tall building, will travel a maximum of 504 meters.) 

The technology could help facilitate the creation of high-density housing and other urban projects. "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," says Antony Wood, Executive Director of the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.




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