Elevators: An Important Part of Green Building Strategy

Whether it’s a residential, commercial, or institutional building, sustainability is a big trend in today’s building industry. Energy use, resource efficiency, selection of materials, health and safety, and life-cycle management are all important considerations in making the transition to greener buildings. Though all products of the future will likely be environmentally and socially responsible by default, today sustainability and green building features have the potential to set your building apart. In the past, elevators have been overlooked in green building planning yet including them is a useful way to improve overall building functionality, efficiency, and reputation.

Incorporating Green Elevator Features into Your Sustainable Business Plans

Elevators use a relatively small amount of energy compared to the overall energy consumption of a building. At the same time, elevators provide both daily carrier service for passengers and contribute to the user’s experience with the building, and so they should be included in sustainability planning. As such, many architects, building owners and managers are incorporating green elevator strategies such as:

  • Traction Elevators
  • Regenerative Drives
  • Machine Room Less Elevators
  • Destination Dispatch
  • Green Retrofit Options

Whether you’re engaged in a new building project or a modernization, including sustainable elevators in your plans will reduce energy use, lower space requirements, and generate healthier indoor air quality.

Traction Elevators for Greater Energy Efficiency

The biggest energy-saving innovation in elevator design is the traction elevator, which is up to 75% more energy efficient than traditional hydraulic elevator.   Hydraulic elevators use a pumping system to work against gravity to push the elevator and occupants up.  This energy is then lost when the elevator moves in the down direction. There are also serious environmental concerns about the possibility of oil and other chemicals leaking from the lifting cylinder and contaminating the ground beneath the building.

Traction elevators on the other hand use smaller electric motors, cables and counterweights to move the elevator in both the up and down direction.  This results in a much more efficient system and does not require oil and other toxic pollutants.

Regenerative Drives Provide Energy Savings

Many traction elevator designs also make use of regenerative drive systems for additional energy savings. These contribute to energy efficiency by capturing energy that would otherwise be lost as heat. The energy is then re-directed back to other parts of the elevator system or even back into the building’s main electrical grid.

Machine Room-Less Elevators for Greater Space Efficiency

By choosing the right resources, or using the same resources more efficiently, sustainable elevator designs can reduce space requirements and materials consumption. That’s the benefit of Machine Room-Less (MRL) elevators, which use gearless machines located in the elevator hoistway. This creates the opportunity to avoid the need for an elevator machine room thereby increasing flexibility in design and reducing square footage requirements, materials, and related costs.

Destination Dispatch Increases Ride Efficiency and Passenger Experience

Destination dispatch software also adds to the efficient use of energy for elevator transport throughout a building. In taller buildings with multiple elevators in use, destination dispatch software allows passengers to select their floor destination and then the controller calculates the best use of available elevators to group passengers travelling to nearby floors and direct them to a specific elevator. By avoiding the need for each elevator to stop at every floor, less energy is wasted and the passenger experience is enhanced by reduced overall transport times. Better still, this system can increase handling capacity up to 30%.

Other Green Retrofit Options

A healthy, energy efficient building is a more profitable one, making it imperative to consider green elevator designs in any upgrade or new building plans. Additionally, modernizing your elevator can be a strategic investment rather than an emergency response by reducing health and safety risks and therefore limiting liability. The following are several ways to improve the contribution elevators make to overall building health and efficiency:

  • Low-VOC materials: Unhealthy indoor air quality can contribute to human health hazards such as allergies, headaches, dizziness and possibly longer-term problems. Not only does this detract from the occupant experience in the building, it can significantly reduce overall occupant productivity. Green elevators improve building health by avoiding toxic volatile organic compounds (VOC) that pollute indoor air. Low-VOC finishing materials in a green elevator design can include components made of bamboo, recycled carpet, and hard surface coverings with low VOC sealants and adhesives.
  • Low toxin lubricants: Another way to improve indoor air quality with green elevators is with MRL elevator lifts that do not require toxic lubricant oils. Even in older hydraulic systems, a non-petroleum lubricant can be used as a temporary measure to avoid the possibility of ground and air pollution.
  • Energy efficient lighting: Replacing incandescent lights with LED lamps can reduce lighting energy use by 96%. This has the secondary benefit of reducing heat gain from incandescent bulbs, thereby cutting energy required for cooling systems as well.
  • Energy saving features: Other energy efficiency upgrades to existing elevators include switching an older DC unit for a microprocessor-based AC unit or adding stand-by modes for lights and fans and in some cases even the elevators themselves.

Early Planning Makes Green Elevator Feature Incorporation Possible

Incorporating green elevator designs is complex and not every product or option is suited to every project, yet creating a sustainable building is very rewarding in terms of building reputation and user experience. To achieve the greatest benefits of a green elevator design, a whole systems analysis is advantageous in the earlier planning stages. By approaching a building design or redesign with all of the available sustainability elevator information at the start, you can evaluate options and potential problems, saving you from costly errors later in the process.

Early planning is especially important for building retrofits, which are of particular necessity for elevator systems that are 20 years old or more. In some cases, older relay logic circuit system parts are being phased out, which make it more difficult to complete effective maintenance and repairs and complicate upgrades to sustainable designs.

Using a green elevator consulting firm like Elevator Consulting Services (ECS) can vastly simplify the process. Our extensive experience allows us to approach your design considering all factors, including capacity, speed, accessibility, interior fittings, variations in sizing by manufacturer, and project budget to develop a sustainable elevator design that fits your requirements.

Planning and implementing can be a lengthy process, but with proper planning, once construction begins there is a relatively brief down time. Let ECS guide you through the process of including elevators in your design for sustainability by contacting us to discuss your options.