Without the elevator, there would be no skyscraper
Footprint visits KONE’s HQ to discover the new challenges being set for elevator companies in what they call ‘people flow’
At KONE’s HQ, in a Helsinki suburb, you do not have to wait long for an elevator. Each lift boasts a view towards downtown Helsinki and will take you smoothly to the top of the 12 storey building at a rate of 10m/second.
KONE recently gave Footprint an access-all-areas tour of the company including their HQ, test elevator shaft and one-on-one interviews with the KONE team.
Founded in Finland in 1910, KONE has grown into one of the world’s top five largest manufacturers of elevators and escalators, and now has more than 11 million elevators and escalators in operation across the globe.
KONE’s focus has always been on innovation and experimentation, and in 1998 the company built the world’s tallest elevator test shaft at its High Rise Laboratory in Tytyri to test new technology in a 350m deep limestone mine. The Tytyri laboratory allows KONE to trial elevators for buildings over 200m tall.
The company is currently testing its ‘Double-Decker technology’, which allows two elevator cars to use the same shaft, KONE’s aim is to increase the transportation capacity, shorten travelling time, reduce space and reduce construction costs. The descent down to the base of the test shaft is surprisingly quick and smooth, a quality strived for by KONE to ensure user comfort on a daily basis.
The supplier of elevators in the majority of London’s skyscrapers, including One New Change, Broadgate Tower and the 310m high Shard, KONE are conscious that the population of cities is increasing. With limited plots of land, cities are forced to get higher and higher, ‘by 2030 there will be approximately five billion people living in cities’.
With a need for elevators and escalators in current high-rise architecture, the service can contribute to between 2-10 per cent of a buildings energy consumption and one of KONE’s focuses since 1987 has been to develop eco-efficient solutions.
KONE employee since 1982, Heikki Leppanen, Executive Vice President of New Equipment Business discussed how they have cut their energy consumption by 70 per cent during 2008 – 2012. This reduction was made possible through machinery efficiency, reduced water usage in production, LED lighting, lowering production waste, 90 per cent recycled elevator components, a low-energy 14,000 electric car fleet, standby solutions and the development of new technology including the renewed mechanical hoist, EcoDisc.
The EcoDisc hoisting machine allows the energy generated through friction on an elevators descent to be stored and used within the building or elevator system.This can provide 20-35 per cent energy savings and cut energy bills by a third. President and CEO, Matti Alahuhta told Footprint that KONE’s aim is to develop a self-sufficient elevator, powered 100 per cent on the energy generated on the elevators descent.
This solution can be coupled with ‘KONE Polaris – Destination control system’ where you choose your destination and wait to be assigned to a lift where everyone wants to travel to the same destination. By grouping passengers based on destination, they hope to increase capacity and reduce elevator use and stoppage, thus reducing energy consumption.
Renzo Piano’s Shard, in central London, is fitted with 13 Double-Decker elevators and 50 single elevators designed by KONE. Not only have the Finnish company provided elevators for the finished phase, but they also assisted during the construction phase.
KONE’s Jumplift uses the finished lift shaft to transport construction materials during the build, increasing in height as the building was constructed. Floors can be accessed by the lift on the completed levels, allowing occupiers to move in when the upper levels are still being built. Not only does this system reduce the construction phase by 4-6 months, it also allows the upper levels of the skyscrapers to be accessed during high winds.
The global company are making steps in the right direction, but KONE’s CEO and President Matti Alahuhta admitted that they still have more to do. Reducing the company’s carbon footprint by 3 per cent annually and continuing to develop new technologies to reduce energy consumption, KONE are now beginning to look at other aspects of their company, including reducing the energy consumption of the thousands of offices they inhabit globally.
With developments like these, the future for KONE is very much onwards and upwards.
KONE’s key milestones
1987: V3F frequency converter launched, improving energy efficiency of KONE hoisting machines.
1991: KONE becomes the first company to utilize regenerative drives in its elevators.
1993: The energy-efficient planetary gear for escalators is introduced.
1996: The first Machine Room-Less elevator, KONE MonoSpace, is launched, providing up to 70% energy savings compared to conventional technology.
2003: The KONE EcoMod solution is launched, enabling modernization of escalators without removing the truss, saving construction time and materials.
2005: KONE MonoSpace is the first elevator to include LED lighting as a standard feature.
2006: KONE unveils the solar-powered elevator concept.
2007: The KONE InnoTrack™ autowalk is launched - the first autowalk to feature an energy-efficient gearless drive.
2009: High-performance regenerative drives for the full range of KONE elevators launched.
2009: New efficient gear outside step band drive launched for KONE escalators and autowalks.
2009: The KONE EcoSystem MR™ elevator receives an A-class energy classification (VDI standard 4707).
2010: The KONE MonoSpace elevator receives an A-class energy classification based on the VDI guideline in measurements performed under optimized conditions in KONE facilities.