Waiting for a Greener Elevator

Moving an 80,000-pound metal box means using energy, and elevators can account for 2-10% of a buildings energy use.
May 3, 2018, 11am PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Steve Snodgrass

There are about 7.6 billion people on earth and, according to Smithsonian Magazine, those people take more than 7 billion elevator trips every day. That vertical movement costs energy and the need adds up quickly. "Newer elevators already incorporate green features such as LED lights, water soluble paint and recycled construction materials, but many companies have begun to explore a wide and somewhat outlandish array of alternatives to the traditional rope-and-pulley systems of a hundred years ago," Adrienne Bernhard reports for the Smithsonian Magazine.

An elevator can weigh 4 tons, consuming energy even when it's not in use. "In fact, elevators typically account for between 2 percent and 10 percent of a building’s energy use," Bernhard reports. But regenerative drive systems that reclaim some of the energy they use has cut into that energy cost for some new elevator designs. There are also machine room-less elevators, which allow for flat roofs, that are easier to use for solar power generation. "In 2017, Thyssenkrupp Elevator became the first company to retrofit an existing elevator to achieve net-zero energy," Bernhard writes.

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Published on Friday, April 27, 2018 in Smithsonian Magazine
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