Thursday, 28 January 2016

Who Invented the Seismic Switch for Elevators?

What is a Seismic Switch?

One of the general public’s biggest fears, related to vertical transportation, is the prospect of being trapped inside an elevator during an earthquake. The industry has dedicated time and resource to reducing the likelihood of this happening. The earliest earthquake detection devices were called Seismoscopes and were invented in China during the second century, long before vertical transportation was an established industry. In the twentieth century earthquake detection became part of the vertical transportation industry in the form of a Seismic Switch. A Seismic Switch is a device that can disable or de-activate an elevator in the event of an earthquake. Seismic switches can enhance elevator passenger safety by the early detection of earthquakes.

How Do Seismic Switches Work?

A Seismic Switch works by monitoring seismic energy made up of Seismic Waves. Seismic Waves are waves of energy that travel through the earth’s layers and are the result of an earthquake, volcano or an explosion. When the device detects fluctuations above a certain level it returns the elevator to the nearest floor and the doors open allowing passengers to get out. The switches are triggered by the preliminary P-waves of an earthquake. P-waves arrive before the more dangerous S-waves arrive. Seismic switches are also known as seismic triggers.

Who Invented the Seismic Switch for Elevators?

Larry D Miller invented the Seismic Switch for elevators in 1975. His US patent filed in that year described his invention as a ‘Tuned ground motion detector utilizing principles of mechanical resonance.’ This was to become the vertical transportation industry standard, CHV -1. Larry was chief designer at Seismic Switch Inc., a company that has since installed over 10,000 devices. Other manufacturers within the vertical transportation industry including industry giant Otis have created and installed their own versions of Seismic Switches. Otis’ product is called a Seismic Sensor.

Since the 1970s Seismic Switches have become a mandatory requirement in earthquake prone countries for buildings with elevators. Most earthquake activity occurs in the following regions: West coasts of South and Central America and from the Northern USA to Alaska, the Aleutians, Japan, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and Australasia. Japan is possibly the most earthquake prone country in part due to its 110 active volcanoes and the fact that 4 of the world’s tectonic plates converge in Japan. Seismic Switches have become an integral part of elevator systems in all of the countries mentioned.

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.

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Friday, 22 January 2016

How Does A Nickel Help Create the World’s Smoothest Elevator Rides?

The global size of the vertical transportation market is predicted to reach $111 Billion by 2017*. There has always been fierce competition among elevators manufacturers to secure the most prestigious projects and to deliver the world’s leading elevator systems. In recent years the race to build complex elevator systems for taller buildings has intensified but height is not the only specification that is important. Elevator speed and ride quality are also key considerations. It is no coincidence that the majority of the world’s fastest elevators are located in Asia. This prompts the question, what process do elevators manufacturers in Asia have that are not being used elsewhere?

The building that currently has the world’s fastest elevators is Taipei 101 in Taiwan.  Taipei 101 is 508 metres high or 1,670 feet and is currently world’s eighth tallest building. Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest at 828 metres or 2,717 feet.  When it comes to elevator speed Taipei has a considerable advantage over Burj Khalifa because its two high speed Toshiba elevators installed at a cost of $2million each travel at 3,313 feet/min, 37.7 mph. This is almost double that achieved by the Burj Khalifa’s elevators that travel at a rate of 1,968.5 feet/min, 22 mph.

How have Toshiba been able to produce elevators that can travel so fast while maintaining ride quality? One explanation for this technical superiority can be provided by a coin. Let me explain, a Nickel is a coin worth five cents in the United States. In Japan the major elevator manufacturers: Mitsubishi, Hitachi, Toshiba and Fujitec have their technicians conduct a ‘Nickel Test’ when then they are developing new elevators. This ‘Nickel Test’ consists of standing a nickel on its side inside an elevator car and then sending the car from top to the bottom. If the nickel is still standing at the bottom the elevators has passed the test. This ‘Nickel Test’ seems overly simplistic but it is part of a robust testing process. It is not the only test for new elevators.

The Japanese vertical transportation industry has historically placed a greater emphasis on ride quality than other countries because the Japanese population has greater cultural demands with regards to ride quality. Minimum requirements for ride quality were introduced in Japan in the 1980s. In 2003 a global standard for the measurement of lift ride quality was set out with the publication of an ISO Standard for: Lifts (elevators) ISO 18738. ISO 18738 defined how to measure ride quality but it did not define what is good. There is currently no international standard that defines what good ride quality is for elevators. After its introduction manufacturers in other countries followed the Japanese lead in giving ride quality greater consideration.

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.

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Wednesday, 13 January 2016

What are the Tallest Buildings on Each Continent?

The world’s tallest buildings have long fascinated the general public as well as those employed in the vertical transportation industry. We have Elisha Otis to thank for the creation of our vertical transportation industry of course. You can read about his contribution 'here'. With this week’s post we have chosen to highlight the world’s tallest buildings on a continent-by-continent basis. Some of these buildings you will be familiar with, others less so.  Let us know how many of the seven tallest buildings you have visited in the comments section below.

Tallest Building on Each Continent

Asia - Burj Khalifa  

The tallest building in Asia is Burj Khalifa. Burj Khalifa was built in 2010 is located in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. It is the tallest artificial structure in the world and stands 828m or 2717 feet high and has 160 floors.  The building has 57 lifts and 8 escalators. The lift cabins have a capacity of 12 to 14 people. The lifts installed at Burj Khalifa are the world’s fastest Double-deck elevators equipped with LCD entertainment units. 

Europe – The Federation Tower

The tallest building in Europe is set to be the Federation Tower in Moscow. Its height is 374 metres or 1227 feet and it has 101 floors. It is a complex of two buildings built on one podium. One of the towers stands 97 floors high (Tower East) and the second tower (Tower West) stands 65 floors high. Construction originally started in 2003 but was halted and only resumed in 2011. The Tower is due to be finally completed towards the middle of 2016. There are 67 lifts at the Federation Tower. Twenty Two TWiN elevators have been installed with equipment from ThyssenKrupp (Germany) and Schindler (Switzerland).

North America - One World Trade Center

The tallest building in North America is New York City’s One World Trade Center completed in 2013. It has a height of 541.3 metres or 1776 feet and has 104 floors and is a symbol of renewal and hope. There are 73 lifts and 11 escalators at One World Trade Center, designed and installed by ThyssenKrupp. The five express elevators travel at over ten meters per second, which is close to record-breaking speed.

Oceania  - Q1 - Queensland Number One

The tallest building in Oceania is Q1 or Queensland Number One. The Skyscraper is located on the Gold Coast in Australia. The building is 322.5 metres in height or 1058 feet and has 78 floors. Q1 is the tallest all residential building in the world and was opened in 2005. It has 11 Kone lifts that travel at a speed of 9 metres per second.

South America - Gran Torre Santiago

The tallest building in South America is the Gran Torre Santiago located in Santiago, Chile. This skyscraper is 300 metres in height or 984 feet and has 64 floors and 6 floors below ground too. Although construction commenced in 2006 due to some delays the building was only completed in 2013. The building has 24 high speed lifts that travel at 6.6 metres per second. 

Africa – The Carlton Centre

The tallest building in Africa is the Carlton Centre located in Johannesburg, South Africa. Constructed in 1973 the Carlton Centre is 223 metres high or 732 feet and has 50 floors. The building houses offices and shops and has 46% of the floor area below ground level. The Carlton Centre has 18 lifts arranged in 3 banks of 6 serving different sections of the Tower. In addition there is one express lift serving the observation platform known locally as ‘The Top of Africa’. The lifts travel at a speed of 1400 feet per minute. 

Antartica - Long Duration Balloon (LDB) Payload Preparation Buildings
The tallest buildings in Antartica are the Long Duration Balloon (LDB) Payload
Preparation Buildings. The buildings are located at McMurdo Station on volcanic rock at the southern tip of Ross Island on the shore of McMurdo Shore, Antartica and form part of a United States research centre. Built in 2005 they are 15 metres in height or 49 feet and do not have any lifts. Given the climate it is no surprise that the Long Duration Balloon (LDB) Payload Preparation Buildings are the least visited buildings on our list. The climate is also the reason that the buildings need to be moveable – previous buildings were covered in snow during the winter and it took several weeks for them to be dug out and useable again. The Long Duration Balloon (LDB) Payload Preparation Buildings are a solution to that problem because they are movable buildings on skis that have been placed on a snow platform known as a berm.

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.

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