Construction projects require a great amount of detail and can take months or years to complete. An important part of the construction process is ensuring you choose the right structure design and materials. You must consider the foundation and various natural elements before incorporating certain additional items into the building.
When building multi-story buildings, you should think about how people are going to access each floor. Stairs are a natural choice, but it is also wise to install an elevator because it’s faster, more convenient, and it considers people with disabilities and mobility limitations.
What is an Elevator?
An elevator is a platform that could either be open or closed and is used for lifting or lowering both people and goods to upper and lower floors. In the past, it was not mandatory for story buildings to have elevators. As a result, some real estate investors avoided installing elevators because they were expensive to install and maintain.
How the Law has Influenced the use of Elevators
It was not until the Americans with Disabilities Act was introduced in 1990 that elevators become common. The legislation forbids any form of discrimination against people with disabilities. The law also requires all two or three-story buildings to be fitted with elevators. This makes it more convenient for people living with disabilities to easily access multiple floors.
How Elevators Work
Elevators haven’t changed much since the 1800s. Elevators still maintain their original purpose of transporting people across floors. The Otis Safety System is used in most elevator types and has been since the 1850s.
Control systems have been altered for modern elevators in ways that improve on speed and safety. In most cases, elevators will apply the use of counterweight and 40% of the maximum rated load to balance the car.
The main purpose of the counterweight is to reduce the weight to be lifted by the motor and to keep the entire elevator in control with the cables intact. In order to ensure durability and strength, the car elevator is made from steel. The pulley used by the hoist cable is held in place by a spanned side-to-side elevator shaft. This spun is controlled by a set of steel beams that are placed above the elevator car.
Modern elevator cars also have additional technology installed in them. Some have phones that allow the occupant to call for help in the event of an emergency. Others are fitted with a trap door located at the ceiling that make escape possible in emergency situations.
Elevators are designed and fitted into a building according to the building’s population capacity and duties to be performed. For example, there are some buildings that will have large elevators to transport cargo to different floors. Hospitals have elevators that open on both sides to allow easy entry and movement of emergency patients.
In the past, most elevators had to be controlled through a centralized machine room. Today, there are some elevators that don’t need a machine room because they have an inbuilt safety mechanism. There are four main types of elevators: hydraulic, traction, machine-room-less, and vacuum.
1. Geared and Gearless Traction Elevator
Geared and Gearless Traction elevators can be separated into three different categories:
This elevator has ropes that pass over a wheel attached to an electric motor located above the shaft. The main function of the ropes is to raise and lower the elevator car. It can be used for both mid and high-rise applications and can travel much faster than hydraulic elevators.
Like other elevator types, this system uses a counterweight, which eliminates the weight of the occupants and the car so that the motor has an easier job moving the elevator load.
Geared Traction Elevator
The geared elevator is made up of a motor that has a gearbox attached to it. The main function of the gears is to power the wheel that moves the ropes. This type of elevator can travel up to speeds of up to 500 feet per minute. The maximum distance it can travel is 250 feet.
Gearless Traction Elevator
Gearless elevators don’t have a gear for speed regulation. This explains why they can move as fast as 2,000 feet per minute and can also travel a maximum of 2,000 feet. They are the best option for skyscrapers.
2. Hydraulic Elevator
Hydraulic elevators are normally given support by a bottom-placed piston. The purpose is to push the elevator car up while an electric motor forces hydraulic fluid down the piston. When it’s time for the elevator to come down, the valve releases the hydraulic fluid from the piston. This type of elevator is mostly used in 2 to 8 story buildings and can only travel at a maximum speed of 200 ft per minute. Below is a further breakdown of hydraulic elevators:
Roped Hydraulic Elevator
This type applies the use of both ropes and a piston to enhance the motion of the elevator car. The maximum distance it can travel is about 60 feet.
Conventional Hydraulic Elevator
Designed with an elevator pit, it comes with a sheave that extends beneath the floor of the pit. As the elevator begins to drop, the pit supports a retracting piston. In some configurations, a conventional hydraulic elevator may require a shallower hole below the pit that accepts a collapsing telescoping piston when the elevator drops. The approximate distance it can travel is 60 feet.
Hole-less Hydraulic Elevator
The Hole-less Hydraulic Elevator is similar to the conventional one, but it doesn’t require a hole or sheave fixed below the pit. It has telescoping pistons at the base of the pit. These pistons allow the elevator car to travel up to 50 feet. There is also a design that has non-telescoping pistons, which can only allow up to 20 feet of travel.
The main reason hydraulic elevators are popular is because they are more affordable to set-up and still have relatively lower maintenance costs when compared to other elevators.
Hydraulic elevators utilize more energy because they use an electric motor that works against gravity. You should regularly check the hydraulic fluids because a small leak could easily lead to a catastrophic event or become an environmental hazard.
3. Machine-Room-Less (MRL) Elevator
Most elevators are designed with a machine room located above the elevator shaft. This type of elevator has a machine fitted in the override space, and it can only be accessed through the top of the elevator car whenever maintenance is required. This type of elevator can only travel a distance of 250 feet with speeds of up to 500 feet per minute.
MRL elevators are gaining popularity with mid-rise buildings because they conserve energy and require less room during construction.
4. Vacuum (Air Driven) Home Elevator
Introduced to the elevator community in 2005, vacuum elevators do not use any cables or pulley system to operate. These Air-Driven elevators operate based on the natural laws of physics. Constructed with polycarbonate and aluminum materials, this lift system is basically a tube in a sealed vacuum. The air beneath and above the elevator car is what facilitates movement.
When you push the up button, the system lowers pressure above the tube, forcing the air pressure below to push the tube upwards. The opposite happens as you go down – pressure below is minimized, forcing the elevator to go down.
Because this type of elevator is available in 3 models, ranging from a single passenger to a three passenger wheelchair accessible model, they are mostly used in residential applications.
How to Choose an Elevator that Best Fits your Needs
Elevators can be a pricey investment, so it is important to consider all factors when deciding which one is best for you. You can’t install a big MRL elevator in a mid-sized apartment building. The first thing to do is to carry out an assessment of the building and determine what you need the elevator for. Here are some of the factors to consider:
Different elevators come in various sizes and function differently. Passenger elevators can hold up to a maximum of 10,000 pounds. Most can hold between 2,500 and 5,000 pounds. Depending on the type of building, some elevators will need to be equipped with special functions such as space for holding stretchers in a hospital building.
Freights can weigh tons, and they need a special elevator to transport them. Freight elevators are designed to hold up to 20,000 pounds or more.
People often confuse service elevators with freight elevators. Service elevators are regular passenger elevators used by staff in a building. These elevators are mostly used to provide employees with a more convenient way to travel from floor to floor without disrupting the customers and guests.
Commercial or Residential
Commercial elevators are generally designed to fit more people than residential ones. Some residential elevators hold as few as one person because they tend to have fewer users than their commercial counterparts.
Dumbwaiters are simple small elevators used to perform useful transportation functions. In restaurants, a dumbwaiter can come in handy when moving meals and dishes in-between floors.
Before your install an elevator in your multi-story building, you must know the building’s dynamics. Is it a residential or commercial building? You should also know how much the elevator needed for your structure will cost. Even though elevators can be an expensive investment, the convenience and ease of use is often an intriguing reason to add one to your next structure.