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The vertical transportation system is a crucial element in the efficient operation of a building and for the experience and comfort of building occupants. Elevators, or lifts, are also a key success factor for high-rise buildings.


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When creating a vertical transportation (VT) strategy, WSP’s experts consider a variety of factors including client requirements, occupancy levels for different types of development, elevator cabin capacity, waiting times and ways to maximize lettable space in the building, without compromising the elevator efficiency, cost-effectiveness and energy consumption. We are also experts in escalator design and applications.

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Marina Bay Sands Resort

Elevator Systems for All Types of Buildings

We offer services for all types of buildings including retail, commercial, residential, hotels, hospitals, transport terminals and mixed-use developments. We provide solutions for new-build projects, as well as for existing buildings where we can help with equipment assessments and maintenance, and advise on improvement and modernization. We are specialists in super-tall buildings requiring a different set of design considerations.

In all buildings, whether standard or super-tall, our VT experts must consider the needs and numbers of occupants. In a residential building, for example, in addition to the people themselves, furniture movement, cargo delivery and security must be taken into account.

We become involved with both the client and design team early in the building design process, ensuring that there are no surprises later on. We remain up to date with fast-evolving elevator technology, creating innovative strategies for some of the world’s most high-profile buildings, including Lloyds of London, Harrods in London, Gold Coast Private Hospital and Crown Entertainment Complex in Australia, Bulgari Hotel and Residences in Dubai, the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort in Singapore and China’s tallest building, Shanghai Tower.

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Vertical Transportation for High-Rise Buildings

The vertical transportation strategy is critical to the success of a tall building. Elevators occupy a considerable amount of space and therefore influence the amount of lettable space in the building. However, there must be enough elevator capacity for the building to function properly. This is particularly true for tall, slender buildings and mixed-use developments.

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Crown Entertainment Complex

Occupancy Levels and Waiting Times

Our engineers’ calculations must take into account the variety of occupancy levels, which might span retail, offices, hotel and apartments. Occupancy levels vary significantly between, for example, trading floors and the executive suite, and between high-end apartments and social housing. Designers typically assume 80% capacity for elevator cabins, but this drops to 60% in hotels, where people will have luggage and, intriguingly, in external glass elevators, to give vertigo sufferers more space.

Waiting times must also be factored in, with acceptable times ranging from 25 seconds in offices, to 30-50 seconds in hotels and 45-90 seconds for residential floors, depending on the level of luxury.

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Evolving Elevator Technology

VT strategies are evolving rapidly with the increase of super-tall buildings. In such cases, a vertical transportation system of shuttle elevators, where separate banks of lifts serve groups of floors, has traditionally proven to be the most efficient solution from both a passenger and space point of view, creating the need for sky lobbies.

Advances in elevator technology mean that strategies are constantly evolving. Double-decker elevators have increased capacity and triple-decker versions are in development, while “twin” cabins can move independently within the same shaft. There are also technologies that enable energy to be recovered from an elevator’s counterweight and reused elsewhere, while advances in control technology allow passengers to input their destination in the lobby so that the system works out the ideal travel profile for each elevator. The development of super-strength carbon-fibre belts means that a single elevator can now travel over 1,000 metres, where previously steel cables meant the number of floors that an elevator could serve was limited to 100.

The Fastest Elevator in the World

Our high-rise portfolio includes the CTF Financial Centre in Guangzhou that holds a world record for the fastest elevator ever installed. This 530m tower is the city’s tallest building, and includes grade A office space, service apartments, a club and the Rosewood hotel. There will certainly be no waiting around for hotel guests, who will occupy the top 16 floors: the shuttle serving the hotel will climb at 20m per second, twice the speed of the elevator to the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

In addition to working on other mega-tall projects in China, including Tianjin Goldin Finance 117 Tower, Suzhou Zhongnan Center and Wuhan Greenland Center, WSP is working on other tall buildings around the world such as 22 Bishopsgate and South Quay Plaza in London, Bahria Icon Tower in Karachi and Lotte World Tower in Seoul.