Getting closer to the sky – at a speed of 15 mph

Schindler elevators in the Elbtower

Elbtower from the top

245 metres – that’s not exactly a long distance in Hamburg. It takes two to three minutes to cover such a distance, which is, let’s say, from stern to bow of a medium-sized Hapag Lloyd container ship. But it’s a different story when you’re going vertically upwards. When the Elbtower takes its place at the limit of HafenCity in a few years’ time, it will be 245 metres from ground level to the top.

Simulations show who will want to go where 

The Elbtower is a visitor magnet: up to 3,000 people will flock to Germany’s third tallest building, day after day. Office workers, hotel guests, fitness club visitors and retail customers, people going for walks and gourmets, city vistors and tourists all want to get to the different destinations spread across the building’s 64 floors.   

Managing these traffic flows is the task of the developer and the building operators, architects and other construction planners. After all, moving thousands of people through a building without causing long queues or traffic jams in front of the lifts and stairs is a tricky task. “We have carried out considerably comprehensive traffic simulations for this,” says Jürgen Blank, who heads lift manufacturer Schindler’s project business and new technologies division. Schindler recently received the order to equip the Elbtower with the necessary lift technology. 

In advance, experts studied the use of the building and drew up occupancy quotas for the individual floors. Because movements in high-rise buildings follow certain patterns, the quotas are combined with empirical values that Schindler has gained in other high-rise buildings. “Early morning traffic, for example, when many people come into the building, is critical. There are also large volumes at lunchtime when employees from the offices want to eat,” explains Blank. From the traffic forecasts, the technicians then create simulations that indicate where and how many transport options need to be offered.

Jürgen Blank – © Schindler

15 high-speed and one panoramic lift

A total of 40 lifts will take people to their destinations throughout the Elbtower. Ten multiple-chamber shafts will be installed for this purpose, six of which will run through the floors above the base level. Sixteen so-called high-speed lifts reach the tower’s top floors in just under 40 seconds. And if you want to get to the viewing platform on the 55th floor, you can take the panoramic lift non-stop all the way up from the ground floor. This means that up to 800 people can be transported to enjoy the beautiful view in one hour.  

The lifts travel up to seven metres per second, which is the equivalent of around 15 mph. Although a higher speed is possible, it doesn’t make sense in the Elbtower, explains Blank. It is usually used in much higher skyscrapers, such as those from the metropolises in Asia.

The destination dispatch system separates user groups

To ensure that people in the daily traffic flows get to their floors and destinations without long waiting times, the Elbtower is equipped with an intelligent destination dispatch system. The experts from the lift manufacturer call this system Schindler PORT, which controls speeds and transport capacities according to traffic volume and time of day. The lift cars, operating elements and controls are digitally networked. Algorithms calculate in advance who wants to go where and when. They then provide appropriate cabins to transport passengers quickly, even at peak times.

In the process, the lift planners also have to take another aspect into account: the Elbtower will be a multi-tenant property with many different tenants. Businesses, shops and other public facilities bring together different groups of people at different traffic times. The PORT system separates those user groups and avoids, for example, hotel guests being led across the office floors in the evening or retail customers finding themselves in the restaurant.

More technology for less energy

Comprehensive digital networking is part of the Elbtower’s concept. The smart building also integrates the lift technology: the cabins feed braking energy back into the building grid. And in eco mode, the transit management system can reduce the energy used by the lifts in parts of the building that are used less. “This can lead to significant results, especially in a tall building like the Elbtower,” says Blank.

The project teams have long been working flat out on the construction and assembly drawings. Because as the shell of the building grows taller, so do the shafts, and construction hoists transport material and construction workers. The planning for the lifts that will take the first visitors to the lofty heights of the Elbtower in a few years’ time began months ago – long before the excavation for the tower was finished.    

Roof terrace of the Elbtower