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 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 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 to start the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you.