Invention May Revolutionize Skyscrapers

Invention May Revolutionize Skyscrapers

Commercial News » Europe Commercial News Edition | By Kevin Brass | June 13, 2013 8:00 AM ET

Finnish elevator manufacturer Kone is touting an invention which could revolutionize the construction of tall buildings.

New technology called Ultrarope is a new form of carbon-fiber rope which could replace the steel ropes currently used to hoist lifts, the firm says. The maximum length an elevator can currently travel is about 500 meters, but Ultrarope may double the distance to about 1,000 meters, which would allow buildings to grow even taller.

Elevators are one of the key restrictions for building taller skyscrapers. The weight of the rope and the machinery necessary to transport people to great heights make many designs impractical. Residents don't want to change elevators two or three times to reach their homes.

(Speed is less of an issue. Elevators in the Shanghai Tower, which is under construction, are expected to travel at about 10 meters a second.)

Ultrarope is far lighter than the steel ropes and would allow for more energy efficient elevator systems, Kone claims. Elevators are one of the biggest energy consumers in buildings.

"Moving masses can be reduced by roughly 45 percent if you are looking at a high-rise building of about 400 meters, by 60 percent if you look at high-rise buildings of about 500 meters," says Kone's Johannes De Jong. "That has a tremendous impact on the energy consumption."

Ultrarope pull lifts up at a rate of four floors per second, Kone says.

Structural engineers say there are few limitations for building towers taller than Kingdom Tower, the one-kilometer building in development in Jeddah. The world's current tallest building is the 828-meter Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

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