Mind & Matter


The World’s Fastest Elevator

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Gensler's Shanghai Tower (2014) will use ultra high-speed elevators by Mitsubishi. Image by Gensler Architects.

As historians of the skyscraper will tell you, the modern high-rise was born from the serendipitous combination of two concurrent technologies: the steel frame and the elevator. Naturally, technology refuses to stand still, as is the case with both of these critical elements of tall buildings.

Elevator technology in particular has had to advance to meet the needs of occupants in the new breed of supertall buildings. The current tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, is equipped with observatory elevators that travel at 10 meters per second, or 36 kilometers per hour.

This month, Mitsubishi announced the development of the fastest elevator in the world—capable of reaching 1,000 meters per minute, or 60 kilometers per hour. This elevator will be used in the new Shanghai Tower designed by Gensler, which will be the second tallest building in the world at 632 meters when it is completed in 2014.

Clearly, safety must be a paramount concern for such rapid vertical travel, and Mitsubishi claims several safety measures—including the latest hydraulic driven disk brakes and fine ceramic-based safety gear shoes that provide resistance to heat, shock, and abrasion in the event that safety gear is activated.


Comments (1 Total)

  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 8:50 AM Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    The other skyscraper enabling technology was the telephone. ISTR reading that somebody in the mid-19th century calculated the maximum height of an office building at ~20 stories because beyond that there wouldn't be enough space on the ground floor for all the doors needed for visitors to enter and exit. But the telephone greatly reduced the number of visitors by making it possible to conduct much business without physically meeting.

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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.