Thursday, 16 June 2011

A moment to think about stairs...

However basic the functionality of stairs are you can’t deny that they contribute to the atmosphere of grandeur that surrounds some of our most recognisable and historic buildings.

Natural History Museum. London.

However in recent years staircases in public spaces have taken on a decidedly more humble role. Disability Laws have contributed to them being erased from the front of buildings to (quite rightly) ensure the buildings accessibility to all. Inside they are often pushed to the back of the ground floor to allow space for escalators or lifts to whisk people up to higher levels. They have become a safety measure and in many buildings in Central Business Districts are inaccessible for day to day use due to security restrictions. 

However the tide is turning. In New York City, prompted by the growing number of residents with obesity, diabetes and heart disease the city’s Department for Design and Constructions (DDC) has joined forces with City Planning, Health and Mental Hygiene and Transportation Departments to tackle the cities health problems - through design.

The objective is to create a greater opportunity for daily physical activity.  With much of the population spending up to 90% of their time indoors the emphasis is on adapting buildings. As stair use is one of the most accessible means for large portions of the NYC population to integrate physical activity into their daily lives the Stair is finally in the spotlight again.

The Guidelines outlined by the DDC focus on location and visibility, dimensions, creating an attractive environment and placing signs prompting people to use the stairs instead of lazier alternatives.

In the case of tall buildings in particular there is a need for an integrated vertical circulation system that includes the use of all vertical transport focusing on sustainable design as well as economical use of space for the building. Stairs can be included into sky lobbies at intervals throughout the building or where two floors share the same function (i.e let by one company where there is likely to be increased inter-floor traffic.)

Having engaged with Architects and Designers for the projects there is an obvious emphasis on aesthetics and some designs included platform breaks between ascending stairs with art installations and music integrated in the design to lure traffic towards the stairs as well as keep people engaged on their upward journey.

So for New Yorkers at least the days of dingily lit staircases at the back of a building are fast becoming a thing of the past and it would surely be a good thing for all of our hearts and minds alike if other cities were to follow suit.

If you’ve been inspired to reconsider your stairs take a look at the following website. Stair Porn has many inviting images of commercial and residential stairs that will leave you brimming with ideas.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Five Fantastic Elevator Journeys for Spring (to five great outdoor bars)

It’s only when the weather picks up that you get a sense of just how many people are in this city. Cycling to work becomes a Beijing like experience and Pubs spill punters across pavements, cycle paths and side streets. So if you fancy an after work pint (or lunchtime if you’re very naughty) and don’t want it knocked out of your hand by a seasonal jogger then look up, jump in a lift, and arrive with a ding at one of London’s rooftops for an altogether calmer experience…


Skybar at the Mint Hotel
7 Peppys Street
Tower Hill

Currently my go-to place for work drinks it’s recently opened and has comprehensive cocktail, wine and whisky lists as well as some good food.  If speed impresses you then ride in the lift up to the 12th floor for wonderful views of the city and South London.  The large west-facing balcony is excellent for smokers, sunshine sippers and in the summer an outdoor bar and BBQ.


The Boundry Rooftop
2-4 Boundary Street E2 7DD
April - October

The coolest on the list, the d├ęcor and relaxed atmosphere means you’re only a couple of glasses of rose away from feeling like it’s the first day a holiday.  Return to street level (in the lift obviously) for a reality check.

If this pushes your buttons but Shoreditch is a bit too east for you Coq D’argent is reassuringly in the heart of the city, fabulously French and wall to wall suits.


Coq d’Argent
No.1 Poultry Street

Most Mentioned Venues:

Oxo Tower
Oxo Tower Wharf
South Bank

It’s obvious, it’s been around forever and once rated as the most overpriced dining experience in London but it does have an undeniably good view of the river and North London. There’s also a public viewing deck so if you can’t afford the bar bill then you could always stop at a friendly corner shop, kick back on the deck with your BYO and see how long it takes to get booted off the premises.


Kensington Roof Gardens
99 Kensington High Street
W8 5SA

To satisfy the West Londoners there’s always this iconic location. Leafy luxury that’s large enough to stroll around and balmy nights its easy to inspire a summer feeling. Turn up your collar and arrive early as at peak times the limited lifts make for a slow entrance.

Coming Soon:

I ‘m due to have a tour of this building in a couple of weeks time but until then I’ll have to go by the website – it looks and sounds impressive. I will revisit this shortly!

Restaurant Skybar with Terraces
Heron Tower
110 Bishopsgate

Monday, 7 February 2011

A-Z of How vertical transport can help you go green

Whether you’re looking after green credentials or company purse strings ‘energy efficiency’ will be words you’re used to seeing. Granted it is not a new topic of conversation but information on the role that vertical transport has to play in reducing a buildings overall energy use is not frequently covered.

Therefore here is a brief directory of options to consider in language that you don’t need an engineering degree to understand.                  

Destination Control
This is where you enter your desired floor in a central control panel before being directed to a specific lift rather than jumping into the first one that arrives. This optimises traffic making it potentially possible to reduce number of lifts and or derive a better service in a building. This can achieve energy savings of up to 25 – 30 % of a lift system.

Eco Efficient Operation – Escalators
Can save up to 30% energy by slowing down or stopping when not in use or increasing the efficiency of the motor in periods of low use.

Hydraulic Lifts v Electric Traction Lifts
Hydraulic lifts are energy inefficient in comparison with electric traction lifts. Hydraulic lifts should be avoided where energy efficiency is a consideration.

Life Span
Most lift and BMU installations have a design life of 20-25 years more with good maintenance. Hydraulic lifts have ‘issues’ with the oil disposal and oil leakage and ongoing maintenance etc.

Lift Drives
Soft start & stop - electronic device to control parameters coupled with variable frequency drive systems. To the non-engineers among us, this just translates into a smooth ride.

LED and ‘eco’ efficient florescent lighting can reduce energy consumption by 80% in comparison to fluorescent lights.

Smart lighting can make additional savings meaning the lights are activated only when the lifts are in use.

Regenerative Drive Features
Regenerative drive converts the excess energy generated by an lift into electricity that can be reused elsewhere in the building. With conventional drives, this untapped energy is converted into heat, which then needs to be removed from the building by air conditioning systems.
A regenerative drive has a substantial impact on an elevator’s energy consumption and is, therefore, a must-have feature when selecting an eco-efficient elevator for a green building

When this is used in conjunction with variable frequency drive systems it can save between 40-50% energy in total.

Standby Solutions
‘Powers down’ the equipment when not in use which provides substantial reduced energy use particularly in buildings where there are periods of inactivity.

Traffic Analysis
To consider the demand and movement patterns for the building by undertaking an assessment involving the design team, this determines the optimum number and size of lifts based on the anticipated passenger demand.

The total energy consumption of the installation is also dependant on planning issues. If stairs are accessible, attractive and adjacent to the lifts, there is likely to be a reduction in the use of lifts for short trips.  It is also good to avoid over-sizing of lifts, as larger lifts result in greater inertia, larger motors and more energy use. However the focus should be on appropriately sized lifts rather than ‘the smaller the better’ in order not to compromise the service.

Variable Frequency Control of Lifts
VVVF (variable voltage, variable frequency) drive systems are essentially the newest form of drive system. An old drive system (i.e DC drive systems) had the motors and generator which results in energy being lost due to the number of elements/motors employed by the system. VVVF drive systems however encompass the technology of the equipment in one control system therefore reducing ‘lost’ energy. 

VVVF drive systems are the key to efficient lifts. Energy Savings can be as high as 30% in comparison to older DC equipment.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Vertical Transport - A hot topic for a hot location

Saudi Arabia has recently surpassed its neighbours when it comes to project spend and is also in the process of building some of the largest structures in the world. As a result Vertical Transport Saudi Arabia have partnered with Saudi Coundil of Engineers (SCE) to deliver a conference (27th February – 2nd March) discussing the impact of VT on building efficiency optimisation – from installation, operation, management and life-cycle maintenance.

On the Agenda:
·      Understanding the level of market sophistication in Saudi, and what the future holds
·      Analysing Saudi specific code, legislation and regulation compliance
·      Are sustainable guidelines being followed? If not, what are the future consequences to building and VT integrity in terms of life-cycle costs and emissions?
·      Investigating contracts, client approval and the decision-making process in KSA
·      Elevator safety – examining the latest technologies and methodologies
·      Maximising ROI through asset management and maintenance
·      Examining the ecological trends in the elevator industry
·      Disabled access considerations at design stage
·      Harnessing energy transfer in a building
·      Highlighting sustainable, products and practices through the supply chain

Needless to say I wouldn’t be talking about this event if we weren’t going to be a part of it.  Peter Boardman is due to feature on a Q & A panel.

For details of how to attend see the link below: