The multidirectional ropeless elevator that could start a new era of taller buildings

After 160 years, a new age of ropeless elevator systems is set to disrupt tall building construction

Professor Michael Cesarz, CEO of Multi at Thyssenkrupp Elevator, is an architect with extensive experience in creating cutting-edge projects, having worked on both the technological and architectural aspects of buildings. Multi is Thyssenkrupp’s latest innovation, a multidirectional ropeless elevator. With the technology being tested at the Thyssenkrupp test tower in Rottweil, Germany, he explains how Multi is set to disrupt the built environment and make way for taller buildings.

How did Multi come about?

Due to the ongoing trend of urbanisation and urban mobility, by 2050 two billion people are expected to live in cities. With such severe restriction on space, increasing the height of buildings is the only viable solution, the other being to extend city boundaries, which would increase the cost exponentially. Currently, high-rise buildings are at an approximate height of 300m, but Multi is set to disrupt this technology and revolutionise building designs.

Multi makes use of the linear motor technology developed for the Transrapid train. This technology allows the cabins to move up and down a shaft as well as travel horizontally. These cabins also come down one after another in a continuous loop without any height limitations.

Do you think that Dubai and the Middle East region are ready for Multi? What challenges have you faced?

With the mechanics incorporated in Multi, it is ideal for the UAE since the country is an early adopter of innovative technologies and is at the forefront of real-estate development. An example of this is the Twin technology that has already been adopted by structures such as the Latifa Tower in Dubai, Capital Market Authority Tower in Riyadh and National Bank of Kuwait Headquarters in Kuwait City.

But finding the right solutions for every building is important. There are other solutions in the market today which are more convenient for certain buildings, and we are even providing some of them. Maybe we can make a mixture of Twin and Multi and it would also work quite well.

We have hired architects to work with us and provide their feedback, and we counter those with solutions. But certain challenges like increasing the size of the cabins are not possible, since we decided to have smaller cabins that fit in the shaft from the beginning itself. The whole shaft and structural elements have to be taken as they are. This has made certain projects not feasible.

How is the Multi maturing as part of the construction industry? Will it be a game changer?

Multi is definitely a game changer. With multiple cabins in a single shaft, Multi is capable of significantly reducing wait times between 15 to 30 seconds, which means passengers don’t have to wait for a long period. Another reason is, architects and developers are not going to be restricted by the elevator shaft height anymore, the design possibilities are open in every direction!

With its smaller cabins, Multi helps to reduce the space occupied by lifts and increase the buildings’ usable area by up to 25%, or help reduce the overall building size and total energy consumption. In fact, Multi has already been commissioned. The very first Multi will be installed at OVG Real Estate’s new East Side Tower in Berlin. If everything goes to plan, Multi will be operational by 2022. In this way, my ambition for Multi is that in the future, out of the 10-20 iconic buildings, if Multi is part of six or seven, it is a win for me. Multi is not a mass project.

With its horizontal-vertical elevator system, Multi is not just limited to buildings. It can be used to open up new directions of travel in underground transport hubs. Multi can also be used to make sky bridges, because structurally we can now provide the elevator running in them, and even make them smaller. We can ideally see it as a lift shaft and not as a walkway when it comes to regulation and codes, and it becomes feasible.

Another application of Multi is at the airports. With terminals so far away from each other, the slots between each take-off are longer, so what if we can squeeze the slots by making people reach terminals quicker? But with airports we are thinking of Multi in a different way, we have a walkway called ‘accel’, running on linear motors as well, that can transport trolleys or luggage to the required gate with Multi.

How is the technology in Multi different from what already exists?

Multi applies the linear motor technology by means of magnetic levitation. This enables the elevators to move in shafts in the same way that trains move in rail systems, with various cabins per shaft and permitting vertical as well as horizontal movements inside buildings. Multi includes new elements such as new and lightweight carbon composite materials for cabins and doors, weighing a mere 50kg instead of the 300kg in standard elevators, resulting in an overall 50% weight reduction as compared to standard technologies.

The cabins move about as if in a traffic overtrain, the software is uploaded with digitisation and there are a ton of sensors in the cabin, not only for technical reasons but for safety and health as well. These sensors can measure the quality of air in the cabin, the noise of the cabin and other unnatural noises as well.

Three levels of braking accompany Multi. The first level is the normal braking on a day-to-day use, it works with linear motors and it brakes to get to a landing. The other one is in case of an energy blackout, energy is buffered in batteries all over the shaft on a normal day, so that we are independent of generators which are located elsewhere in the building. And lastly, we have mechanical braking, and this is mandatory. Just in case everything breaks down and the sky comes down, it brakes just by the speed of the cabin which goes down.

How will Multi be contributing to the smart city initiative that Dubai is pushing for?

We have designed the Multi to be a thing of the future. One can use smartphones as security access, which would eliminate the need for receptions. It’s a lot of space at the entrance that acts as a barrier. With the smartphone, access to the building will be more convenient and the doors will open for you when you arrive.

The Multi would be based on building information modelling (BIM), so whatever happens in the later stages of the elevator will be stored in the BIM system for asset management, portfolio management, etc. With the help of this, Multi can measure the behaviour of the building, the cabin and people travelling in it.

Multi is also equipped with glass fibre cables, which are used to collect data. With this, we can provide the building with an IP backbone, which makes the overall project intelligent. For example, if there is a conference on a particular floor, the building would signal lights to avoid confusion, or even individual floors could smarten up, as per the convenience of the building manager.

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