Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Who built the Medellín Escalator?

There are many amazing examples of vertical transportation around the world but few can claim to be as transformative as the Medellín escalator in Columbia’s second largest city. The large outdoor escalator is located in Medellin's tough Comuna 13 district and was officially opened in December 2011 by the mayor of Medellín, Alonso Salazar Jaramillo. The escalator was built at a cost $6.7 million and funded by the city. It is divided into 6 sections and is 384 metres (1260 feet) long. There is one escalator for Comuna 13’s twelve thousand residents to travel up the hillside and another to descend.  A journey that used to take 36 minutes on foot now takes just six minutes. 

Who Designed the Medellín Escalator?

If the city of Medellín sounds familiar it is probably because of the city’s most infamous inhabitant, a man known as Pablo Escobar. Escobar was a drug lord and during his regime many of the city’s inhabitants fled to the hillside areas including Comuna 13 even though the hillside areas lacked many amenities. Comuna 13 is essentially a shantytown similar to the favelas in Brazil. Comuna 13 was already one of the city’s poorest districts and drug gang violence made matters worse. 

The city council and mayor, Alonzo Salazar deserves a lot of credit. They recognised the problems Comuna 13 was having and decided to do something about it. The Medellín escalator was a manifestation of “social urbanism,” a project designed to integrate remote neighbourhoods with the city by the creation of public spaces and public buildings. The Medellín escalator was a manifestation of state presence.  At the time of the public inauguration of the escalator Mayor Alonzo Salazar Jaramillo said,

"This should be a symbol of city transformation and peace for Comuna 13."

Construction of the escalator was not a straightforward process. The city had to conquer territory from the gangs while building the escalator.

What Impact has the Medellín Escalator had?

The completion of the Medellín escalator was a tremendous achievement. It was the first such outdoor public escalator designed for use by residents of a poor area. The quality of life for residents was improved. Gangs were displaced and overall the environment was enhanced.  It is now easier for Comuna 13 residents to travel to the city for work; they are better connected with the city’s commercial centre.

Perhaps surprisingly the escalator has become an international tourist attraction. Visitors come to ride on the escalator that has become a symbol of inclusion, civic pride and dignity. The escalator has made Medellín a shining example of progressive urban planning ideas. In 2012 Medellín was named The World's Most Innovative City in a competition organised by the non-profit Urban Land Institute.

Dunbar and Boardman is the lift, escalator and access equipment consultancy. Are you currently planning a project that will involve vertical transportation? We would be happy to discuss with you. Give us a call on T +44 (0) 20 7739 5093 or send us an email via garyavis@dunbarboardman.com to start the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you. 

Image credit: http://bit.ly/1O6Gbmo

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Where is the Highest Escalator in the World?

There are many impressive examples of vertical transportation all around the world. We have placed a spotlight on many of them with our blog posts. In this post we turn our attention to the highest escalator in the world.  The highest escalator in the world is actually one of a pair of escalators. The location of these escalators is as far removed from standard installations of linear escalators as you can imagine.

Where is it?

The highest escalator in the world is in Japan at the Sky Building located in the Umeda district of Kita-ku, Osaka, Japan. The Sky Building is Osaka’s seventh tallest building and got its name because of its height; the building consists of two 40 story towers rising 173 metres (568 ft) from the ground. A pair of escalators bisects a circular atrium piercing the roof and upper levels of the building. These two escalators are the highest escalators in the world.

Who built it?

The building was originally planned in 1988; it was to be the “City of Air” project and there were to be four interconnected towers. Costs for this project prohibitive and four buildings were subsequently scaled down to two. The scaled down building with two towers was designed by Hiroshi Hara and was constructed by the Takenaka Corporation. Construction was completed in 1993. The building has a rooftop observatory, a floating garden observatory and an underground market. At the bottom of the towers there is an urban garden with walking trails and water features.

Who owns it?

The Toshiba Corporation wholly owned the building until in July 2008 they sold a majority stake (65%) to Nomura Real Estate. They retained 35% ownership. Tenants of the Sky Building include Mazda, the Consulate General of Germany and Astra Zeneca. It is possible to pay a small fee of 700 yen to ride the glass elevator to the top of the Sky Building and then to experience the highest escalators in the world first hand.

Dunbar and Boardman is the lift, escalator and access equipment consultancy. Are you currently planning a project that will involve vertical transportation? We would be happy to discuss with you. Give us a call on T +44 (0) 20 7739 5093 or send us an email via garyavis@dunbarboardman.com to start the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you.

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1HHqShB

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Who Built the Largest Spiral Escalator in the World?

When is an everyday object no longer an everyday object? We don’t normally start of our blog with a puzzle but this question applies to escalators. In the developed world linear escalators are now commonplace. We are used to seeing them in department stores, at airports and train stations. Turn that linear escalator into a spiral escalator and it is no longer commonplace. Spiral escalators are still quite rare and are a fascination not only for engineers but also for the general public wherever they appear around the world.

Where is it?
In March 2015 Mitsubishi completed the construction of the largest spiral escalator in the world in Shanghai, China. Twelve curved escalators form the spiral. It is not a continuous spiral but it is still a very impressive feat of engineering assembled at the New World Daimaru Department Store. The cost of the spiral escalators has not been made public but it is safe to say that spiral escalators are the Bugatti Veyron of the escalator world.

Who built it?
Mitsubishi Electric built the spiral escalators at the New World Diamaru Department Store. The company first developed the spiral escalator in 1985 and since then has remained the world’s only manufacturer of spiral escalators. There are earlier incarnations of curved escalators and you can read about the first one here. There are two clear reasons why other manufacturers have not followed them. First of all spiral escalators are difficult to construct and must be made up on site and secondly, they are very expensive and are not a mainstream product.

How many have been built?
Mitsubishi have built 103 spiral escalators in Japan and around the world. There is an example at Caesars Palace Forum Shops in Las Vegas. Spiral escalators are usually deployed in luxury environments and there are further examples at the following locations: San Francisco Centre, San Francisco, Canada’s River Rock Casino Resort, Wheelock Place in Singapore, Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Hilton, The Landmark Tower in Japan, the Times Square shopping mall in Hong Kong, Lotte World in South Korea, The Venetian Hotel and Casino in Macau, Wynn Las Vegas.

What are the benefits of a spiral escalator?
Spiral escalators can take up less space than conventional escalators but this consideration must be weighed against the fact that they are more complicated to install and a lot more expensive.  From the point of view of the mall, hotel or casino having the spiral escalator installed; spiral escalators will put your venue on the map. The spiral escalator at the New World Daimaru Department Store has become a tourist attraction. Visitor numbers at the department store remain at very high levels largely because of the free publicity generated by the world’s largest spiral escalator.

Dunbar and Boardman is the lift, escalator and access equipment consultancy. Are you currently planning a project that will involve vertical transportation? We would be happy to discuss with you. Give us a call on T +44 (0) 20 7739 5093 or send us an email via peterboardman@dunbarboardman.com to start the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you.

Image credit: http://bit.ly/1Od8nkh

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Who built the Falkirk Wheel?

Who Built the Falkirk Wheel?

The Falkirk Wheel is the world’s only rotating boat lift and is used to connect the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in central Scotland. It was constructed between the years of 1999 and 2001 and then officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 24 May 2002 as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations. The opening was the culmination of a planning, consultative and funding process that had lasted almost ten years. Ultimately the Falkirk Wheel came into being as a result of partial funding from the Millennium Commission and also other organisations including the British Waterways Board and the European Regional Development Fund.

Who designed the Falkirk Wheel?

There were a number of contributors to the design phases of the Falkirk Wheel. The final design is similar to a Celtic Double-headed Axe. It was a cooperative effort between the British Waterways Board, engineering consultants Arup, Butterley Engineering and a firm of architects called RMJM that was led by Tony Kettle. Together they created a unique boat lift that uses gravity and Archimedes’ principle. 

How Does the Falkik Wheel Work?

The Falkirk Wheel was created to connect the two canals Forth & Clyde Canal and the Union Canal. Where the two meet there is a difference in height of 115 feet.  In the 1930s the canals had been connected by a series of 11 locks.  The Wheel is two balanced water tanks suspended on arms that rotate around a central axis. When the weight is balanced gravity takes down the descending arm and raises the ascending arm at the same time. Each tank can support up to four twenty-meter-long boats at one time. It takes around 4 minutes to complete a turn.  The Wheel uses very little electricity only needing 1.5 kilowatt hours.  You can see the Wheel in action ‘here’.

How has it been received?

The Wheel has become an established tourist attraction. More than 4 .4 million people have visited the Wheel since it opened in 2002 and 1.3 million have taken a boat trip on the Wheel. Around 400,000 people visit the wheel each year.

Dunbar and Boardman is the lift, escalator and access equipment consultancy. Are you currently planning a project that will involve vertical transportation? We would be happy to discuss with you. Give us a call on T +44 (0) 20 7739 5093 or send us an email via peterboardman@dunbarboardman.com to start the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, 12 October 2015

TÜV SÜD Acquires Dunbar and Boardman Partnership

TÜV SÜD has acquired Dunbar and Boardman Partnership Ltd., the UK-based consulting and planning services provider for the lift, escalator and access equipment sector. Dunbar and Boardman has its headquarters in London, with further offices in the UK, Dublin and Dubai. This will allow TÜV SÜD to continue to expand its real-estate services in the UK and its global network.

"Dunbar and Boardman's portfolio of services is the perfect match for our company," says Dr Ulrich Klotz, Head of TÜV SÜD's Real Estate & Infrastructure Division. "In recent years we have made enormous progress in creating an integrated range of consulting services and our customers are the primary beneficiaries. By acquiring the company, we can achieve several strategic objectives at once."

These objectives span further consolidation of TÜV SÜD's position on the UK real-estate market, as well as the company's plans for global establishment and expansion of consulting services from its Real Estate & Infrastructure Division.

"TÜV SÜD's acquisition of Dunbar and Boardman has given us the status of market leader," explains Michael Valente, CEO of the Western Europe Region at TÜV SÜD.

With almost 60 employees at 12 locations in the UK, and further offices in Dublin and Dubai, Dunbar and Boardman provides a full range of consulting services for the installation, operation and maintenance of lift systems. TÜV SÜD thus now occupies an excellent starting-position from which to roll out further services in the UK and extend its integrated consulting services for the real-estate sector to this market.

"Vertical Transport and Facade Access inspections are areas of core business for TÜV SÜD," notes Peter Boardman, co-founder of Dunbar and Boardman Partnership Ltd. "I am therefore delighted that our company can extend this core business into consultancy and continue our successful development under the umbrella of the TÜV SÜD Group. We look forward to contributing our experience and advancing the range of consultancy services on offer."


TÜV SÜD is a premium quality, safety, and sustainability solutions provider that specialises in testing, inspection, auditing, certification, training, and knowledge services. Since 1866, the company has remained committed to its founding principle of protecting people, property and the environment from technology-related risks. Headquartered in Munich, Germany, TÜV SÜD is represented in more than 800 locations worldwide. http://www.tuv-sud.com

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Who built Britain’s first electric lift?

Modern day entrepreneurs and inventors understandably command a lot of attention in business circles but less focus is placed on their successful predecessors. The vertical transportation industry is littered with the achievements of nineteenth century industrialists and inventors. The story of Britain’s first electric lift begins in 1833 with a man called Robert Waygood. It was in that year that he founded R Waygood and Co in Beaminster, Dorset. In 1840 the company moved to Falmouth Road, Great Dover Street, London. Their stated area of business was the manufacture of lifts and cranes. Their lifts were initially hand operated and then water powered hydraulic lifts were added.

What were the achievements of Waygood and Co? 

Waygood and Co produced hydraulic lifts from 1868 in conjunction with the London Hydraulic Power Company after their first installation of a hydraulic lift in the same year.  They were not the first to install a hydraulic lift. In 1845 the industrialist, William George Armstrong invented a hydraulic crane that paved the way for hydraulic lifts. The first hydraulic lift was installed in 1846. The practicality of the hydraulic lift was internationally recognized when Leon Edoux exhibited one at the Paris Exposition in 1867. Waygood’s first installation was in 1868.

In 1875 Robert Waygood sold his company to J.M Day, Henry Walker and W. R Green and took retirement. It was at this point that the company placed a greater focus on lifts. Between the 1875 and the 1890s Waygood & Co. completed many installations and became nationally recognised in the United Kingdom. Waygood & Co became the foremost lift manufacturer in the United Kingdom. Their notable achievements include the introduction of a direct acting lift that returned water to an accumulator in 1884 and the construction of a water balance lift on the cliff at Folkestone, Kent known as The Leas Lift in 1885.

However, their greatest achievement was probably the introduction of Britain’s first electric lift at the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1890.  The world’s first electric lift had built by Werner von Siemens in 1880 as part of the Mannheim Pfalzgau Trade & Agricultural Exhibition in Germany. Despite lots of interest from hotels at the time Werner Von Siemens did not then focus on converting his electric lift into a practical form of vertical transportation. The first person to use a DC motor for an elevator is believed to have been Wegster in 1884. In 1889 Norton Otis, son of the pioneering Elisha, developed an electric elevator. It was the first direct-connected geared elevator in the world and was installed in the Demarest Carriage Building on Fifth Avenue in New York. Waygood & Co’s electric lift built for the Crystal Palace Exhibition was the first in Britain.

Waygood and Otis 

Hydraulic lifts were still preferred over electric until two significant developments took place. First of all, in 1900 the alternating current induction motor was introduced. Then in 1903 Otis introduced the gearless traction electric elevator that enabled lift cars to transport passengers up high rise buildings with dozens of floors. Otis were not only innovating they were also expanding operations internationally and in 1913 Otis acquired Waygood & Co.  By 1913 Waygood & Co was an officially recognised subsidiary of Otis.  Up to the 1950's the combined company traded as Waygood Otis but then the Waygood name seems to have disappeared.

Dunbar and Boardman is the lift, escalator and access equipment consultancy. Do you have a current or planned project that includes vertical transportation? We would be happy to discuss any such requirements and how we may be able to assist. Give us a call on T +44 (0) 20 7739 5093 or send us an email via peterboardman@dunbarboardman.com to start the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you.


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Who Built the National Lift Tower?

The National Lift Tower also known informally as the Northampton Lighthouse is a 127m high tower located off the Weedon road in Northampton. The Tower contains six lift shafts of varying heights and speeds, one of which is a high speed shaft with a travel distance of 100m with a theoretical maximum speed of 10m/s. The Express Lift Company built the Tower to test lifts in 1982 and it then became Britain’s tallest lift testing tower.

The Express Lift Company

The Express Lift Company was formed in 1917 when two companies merged; those two companies were Easton and GEC elevators. An engineer by trade, Josiah Easton had founded Easton in 1822. After an initial failed working relationship with Richard Waygood of Waygood & Co, Easton went on to establish The Easton Lift Co as one of the most influential lift companies in Britain and the world. Notable installations include the first lifts in the Greenwich and Woolwich Tunnels under the Thames.  The General Electric Company (GEC) began working with Easton during the First World War. Easton was making ships hoists, derricks, hydraulic ramps and small lifts for the Royal Navy and the electrical drives were supplied by GEC.

From the outset, the Express Lift Company was headquartered in Northampton. In 1925 Express introduced the gearless self -levelling lift using American sourced components. In 1928 Smith, Major and Evans, the first British manufacturer of gearless lifts, merged with Express. In 1929 Express achieved a special engineering milestone when they installed hydraulic equipment to raise and lower the dance floor at The Savoy Hotel in London.  Over the following decades there were many notable installations including the company’s first escalators at the Earls Court exhibition centre in 1932. In May 1960 the company completed an installation of 25 lifts, 17 at Bucklesbury House and 8 at Temple House. In 1978 Express completed the installation of 22 high speed lifts including five double deckers at 1400 ft. per minute in what was then Europe’s tallest office block, The NatWest Tower.

The National Lift Tower

The National Lift Tower, constructed in 1982 is perhaps the most tangible construction that Express were responsible for, at least in the minds of those not involved in the vertical transportation industry. A smaller testing tower measuring 60 metres in height had been built by Express in 1932 but by the 1970s it was clear that with the advances in the vertical transportation industry a new taller testing tower was needed. The Express Lift Tower (now known as the National Lift Tower) was built for this purpose. Construction commenced in 1980 and was completed in 1982.  You can watch 1980s video of the National Lift Tower here.

It is no longer used for lift testing but is used for testing of the following: height safety and access equipment, escape systems for offshore platforms and vessels, Novel systems for use on underwater cranes. In addition it is also used for lift engineer training, lift equipment development and telecommunications testing including long range high speed wireless broadband.

What happened to the Express Lift Company?

The Otis owned Evans Lifts purchased the Express Lift Company in 1995 and in 1997 Express Evans was folded into the Otis group of companies.

Dunbar and Boardman is the lift, escalator and access equipment consultancy. Are you currently planning a project that will involve vertical transportation? We would be happy to discuss with you. Give us a call on T +44 (0) 20 7739 5093 or send us an email via peterboardman@dunbarboardman.com to start the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Industry Pioneers: Peter Ellis - the Father of the Paternoster

Peter Ellis was born on 1 August 1805 at Shaw's Brow (later renamed William Brown Street) in Liverpool. He was the third son in a family of seven; his parents were Peter Ellis Senior and Ann Ellis (née Appleton). Peter Ellis Senior was an architect who worked on the construction of Courts in an area now buried under Lime Street Station. It was perhaps no surprise when Peter followed in his father’s footsteps and became an architect. He was first mentioned in Gore's Liverpool Directory in 1834 as an architect with an office on Renshaw Street but prior to that he had learned his trade working with his father developing terrace properties for residential use. 

What did he do?

Ellis had a fairly prolific career and worked on many buildings in the Liverpool area in from the 1820s right up 1884, the year of his death. He died at the age of 79 at his home at 40 Falkner Square on 20 October 1884. Of all the buildings that he worked on he is best known for two of his commissions; Oriel Chambers built in 1864 and 16 Cook Street built in 1866. The Cook Street building had a spiral staircase, cantilevered out from the main building and clad with sheets of iron and glass. Oriel Chambers took its name from the type of windows used was in the construction. Oriel Chambers became Ellis’ most notable contribution to the architectural community in the United Kingdom and around the world. Oriel windows are a type of bay window that project from the main wall of a building but do not reach the ground. Oriel windows are supported by corbels, brackets or similar and are most commonly found projecting from an upper floor but have also been used on the ground floor. 

How does this relate to the Vertical Transportation industry?

Designed and built by Ellis, Oriel Chambers contained the world’s first Paternoster-style lift. Ellis received a lot criticism from the architectural community for Oriel Chambers at the time of its construction and his career suffered a loss of momentum.  Many years later Oriel Chambers was praised for being one of the first office buildings to use an iron framework structure and oriel windows and Ellis was finally acknowledged as a pioneer. The innovative design has also been recognised as a precursor to Modernism and a source of inspiration for John Root’s early Chicago skyscrapers. From a vertical transportation perspective, Ellis is recognised as the Father of the Paternoster lift.  Ellis had filed a patent* for a ‘continuously moving lift’ in 1866, it was granted the following year and the Paternoster lift at Oriel Chambers was installed in October 1869. Paternosters went onto become very popular during the first half of the 20th century, particularly in Eastern Europe. You can read more about paternosters in our post, ‘here’.

Dunbar and Boardman is the lift, escalator and access equipment consultancy. Are you currently planning a project that will involve vertical transportation? We would be happy to discuss with you. Give us a call on T +44 (0) 20 7739 5093 or send us an email via peterboardman@dunbarboardman.com to start the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Spotlight on Innovation: OTIS GeN2 Switch Technology

In 2014 Otis released the Switch elevator powered by patented GeN2 technology. The machine is pioneering in terms of its energy efficiency and ease of installation. Its highly efficient and compact qualities make the GeN2 Switch best suited for use in residential buildings, especially those that were built without an elevator.

How does the GeN2 technology work?

The GeN2 uses flat polyurethane-coated steel belts instead of the traditional steel ropes. They are 20% lighter and last three times longer than traditional ropes. The polyurethane-coat finish also serves to make the belts more flexible, which allows them to bend tightly around small diameter sheaves. This superior flexibility allows for a more compact gearless system that is 50% more energy efficient than a conventional machine.

What are the benefits of the GeN2 Switch elevators?

One of the clearest benefits of this machine is its energy efficiency. The GeN2 Switch elevator uses an electronic-battery pack to power the machine, the battery pack is charged by energy generated by the elevator when it is in use. When the motor is idle, the electronic -battery pack recharges and prepares to power the motor when it next comes into operation. This system produces significant savings to electricity bills. The electronic-battery pack also enables the elevator to continue in service in the event of a power failure, the elevator can make up to 100 trips after the power has failed.

The elevator has less movable parts than a conventional machine and provides a very comfortable ride for its passengers. The gearless system means there is minimal noise when the elevator is being operated. This benefit, combined with the fact that the GeN2 requires no specific electrical installation, makes it a great passenger lift system for residential buildings. The compact machine can be plugged in like any other electrical appliance in the building using a single-phase 220V power supply; making installation easy and affordable.

Compared with other conventional systems, the GeN2 also ranks highly in terms of environmental protection standards. The polyurethane-coated steel belts remove the need to lubricate the machine’s parts, thus avoiding the need for hazardous wastes.

You can watch the OTIS GeN2 Switch elevator video here

Dunbar and Boardman keep a watching brief on technological advances within the vertical transportation industry to better serve our clients. Dunbar and Boardman is the lift, escalator and access equipment consultancy. Do you have a current or planned project that would benefit from using a GeN2 Switch? We would be happy to discuss any such requirements and how we may be able to assist. Give us a call on T +44 (0) 20 7739 5093 or send us an email via peterboardman@dunbarboardman.com to start the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Unusual Lifts: What are Vacuum lifts?

The pneumatic vacuum lift is a type of lift that works without a pre-construction shaft, pit, or a machine room and can be installed in as little as two days. Even if a lift was not originally planned for a building one can be fitted without problems. This makes it an ideal solution for residential homes where the occupants find they are having difficulties ascending and descending stairs. There are a number of sizes of pneumatic vacuum lift, some of which can accommodate wheelchairs. This type of lift is particularly popular in New Zealand and the USA where vacuum lifts are often installed in self-build homes. Indeed, New Zealand has a higher proportion of self build homes than the UK, approximately 40% compared with 12% here according to the National Custom and Self Build Association.

How do vacuum lifts work?

The lift is able to move due to air pressure and is contained in a cylinder.  The difference in air pressure above and beneath the vacuum elevator cab literally transports you up – you are travelling by air. It is the vacuum pumps or turbines that pull you up to the next floor and the slow release of air pressure via a valve regulating inflow of air in the upper part of the shaft that floats you down.

Vacuum lifts are fitted an alarm system, emergency ventilation, and door safety switches.

What are the benefits of vacuum lifts?

* Expense - Compared to a convecause it d
ntional lift that requires a lift shaft and machine room a vacuum lift is very cost effective beoes not require these elements.

* The fact that the power source for vertical transportation is air pressure means that it is a very energy efficient solution and environmentally friendly. Turbines power ascent in the lifts and air pressure achieves the descent.

* Installation – In addition to the expense the installation of a conventional lift in a residential home requires a lot of space. Often space requirements or the expense prevent installation. Vacuum lifts can be easily installed with only minimal construction work and do not require as much space as conventional lifts.

* They also need very little maintenance (once every 5 years or 15,000 hoisting movements).

* A vacuum lift can offer a 360 degree panoramic view.

What are the limitations?

* Vacuum lifts can only travel a maximum of 35 feet or 10 metres. However, they can serve any number of floors within this height limitation.

* The ease of installation and lack of a centralised compliance authority after 1991 has meant in some instances non-compliant lifts are in use. The responsibility for compliance is now with regional authorities in New Zealand and unfortunately there have been a number of accidents with vacuum lifts.  We recommend that any lift should comply with international standards and are limited to domestic premises.

* Vacuum lifts have a load capacity of two 3 people or 230 Kgs and are not to be for commercial/industrial usage.

Are you considering vertical transportation for a project that you are working on? Dunbar and Boardman is the lift, escalator and access equipment consultancy. We would be happy to discuss with you. Give us a call on T +44 (0) 20 7739 5093 or send us an email via peterboardman@dunbarboardman.com to start the conversation.

Image credit: http://bit.ly/1NyiKRC

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Should the Paternoster lift be confined to History?

The paternoster lift takes its name from the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer - “paternoster,” or “Our Father” in Latin. The image of a moving chain decorated by small, individual compartments reminded its designers of rosary beads being turned in people’s hands whilst praying, which is how it got its name. The first paternoster-style lifts were installed in Oriel Chambers, Liverpool in 1868 and were designed by the architect Peter Ellis. In 1876 a German company R Stahl* installed a paternoster London’s General Post Office. However, in 1877, British engineer Peter Hart obtained a patent on a paternoster design. Then in 1884, the Dartford, England, engineering firm of J & E Hall built its "Cyclic Elevator”. Paternoster lifts comprise of a chain of open compartments (each usually designed for two persons) that move slowly in a loop up and down inside a building without stopping.

Where was the Paternoster lift popular?

Paternoster lifts were popular in Europe during the first half of the twentieth-century, but their use led to numerous health and safety concerns. These concerns were understandable. The fact that paternosters do not stop means they are particularly dangerous for the elderly, disabled and children to use. Add to this the fact that paternosters are door-less and it is easy to appreciate how accidents could happen and unfortunately they did happen and some included fatalities. Riding a paternoster is no time to be staring at your smartphone; timing your steps on and off the lift demands total concentration. The poor safety record of paternosters has led to them being described as ‘death traps’ in some circles.

When was the Paternoster lift banned from manufacture?

By the 1970s this poor safety record led to new paternoster installations being banned in many countries across Europe. Germany banned new installations of paternosters in 1974. In recent times government initiatives to remove the remaining 250 operational paternosters in Germany have met with a fairly surprising public backlash. Supporters of paternosters claimed they had efficient design and perhaps nostalgia caused them to overlook safety concerns. In the UK British National Standards Related to Lifts, Escalators and Moving Walks were updated with BS2655 Part 5 in 1970 that specifically outlined safety requirements for paternosters. All of the UK’s paternosters in service had been constructed before BS2655 Part 5 was introduced. 

Did any manufacturer ever improve upon the design?

In 2013 Hitachi introduced a design for a Circulating Multi-Car Elevator System that appears similar to a paternoster but has two additional benefits – the lift cars are independent of each other and are able to stop like conventional lifts. In the Hitachi prototype lifts are counterweighted against each other. You can see the set up here 

Safety first: Yes, Paternosters should be confined to history?

Given the number of accidents that have occurred with passengers travelling on paternosters it seems sensible that they are confined to history. It is extremely unlikely that new paternoster installations will be constructed anywhere in the world. It remains to be seen whether architects and building contractors have any appetite for paternoster –style vertical transportation systems such as the Circulating Multi-Car Elevator System designed by Hitachi.

However, contemporary multi car systems, as designed by TKE, may be given the name of paternoster as a ‘modern variation’ on an old theme. 

Dunbar and Boardman is the lift, escalator and access equipment consultancy. Are you currently planning a project that will involve vertical transportation? We would be happy to discuss with you. Give us a call on T +44 (0)20 7739 5093 or send us an email via peterboardman@dunbarboardman.com to start the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you.

* Jumping into the present, R Stahl was purchased by Thyssen Krupp Elevator (TKE) and J & E Hall was purchased by Otis.