Sun Hung Kai Properties

Lift technology continues to reach new heights in HK

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2007, 12:00am

The sky's the limit for lift companies in Hong Kong as the city's high-rises continue to reach new heights.

High-rise lift technology has changed dramatically over the years, with passengers barely noticing the difference, apart from aesthetic changes and perhaps the lack of a lift operator for those old enough to remember.

Otis Elevator lays claim to being the oldest - 154 years - and largest lift company in the world and has been operating in Hong Kong for longer than any others. Next year it celebrates 120 years of doing business in Hong Kong and 70 years of being directly established with a local company.

In 1888, the company installed Hong Kong's first traction lifts at the then Hong Kong Hotel and has since been involved in landmarks around the town and in Macau, including Central Plaza, Hong Kong Bank's headquarters, Macau Tower and Two IFC.

Otis Hong Kong managing director Stephane de Montlivault said technology and safety had taken lifts to new dimensions.

His company's latest high-rise mover is called Skyway, which is operational at Two IFC.

It provides solutions to issues most commonly faced in tall buildings - rope sway, core space and ride quality.

The single-deck units are designed for speeds in excess of 10 metres per second and ultimately will meet speeds of 15 metres per second, while the double-deck units are designed for 10 metres per second.

Double-deck lifts consist of two cabins riding on top of one another in one single hoistway. This allows passengers to get in the lift from two different levels at the same time, with the lifts dispatched from the lobby to even or odd floors.

Mr de Montlivault said this system was extremely efficient as it increased the use of rentable office space - the space occupied by the lifts is minimal as they handle twice the traffic in the same hoistway.

'There is an interesting variation to this, called 'super double-deck', it's a system which none of our competition has. It is born out of more demands from architects to have differences in floor-to-floor heights,' he said.

Otis also boasts the Compass Destination Entry System of traffic control.

As office workers use their pass to go through a lobby gate, they are directed by the system to a car that will take them to their floor.

By assigning passengers to specific floors, it allows each car to make only about a quarter of the stops normally required in heavy traffic periods.

Another giant in vertical people-moving is Jardine Schindler Group, a joint venture between Jardine Matheson and the Schindler Group of Switzerland. Jardine Schindler, as with Otis, is working on One Island East and not long ago completed the AIG Tower.

Other landmarks using Schindler lifts include Times Square, Exchange Square, many of Hong Kong's major hotels, and the Venetian Macao.

Jardine Schindler services 12 countries in Southeast Asia through its Hong Kong offices that carry a staff of almost 1,000.

Group new business director Rob Seakins said every project had its own unique issues.

'You end up getting a design from an architect and then you have to integrate a lift system into that, so every concept can have its own unique challenges to make it workable and reliable for the users,' he said.

'That's one of the things we pride ourselves on - it's good to have the latest things, but we're stringent on the protocols we have on the release of new products in the marketplace, and proven reliability is a definite. You've got to innovate, but you've also got to be reliable.'

Jardine Schindler is supplying 83 lifts, including 40 double-deck lifts, for the 490-metre-high International Commerce Centre (ICC), where the lift shafts will be longer than in any other building in the world.

The company is also making inroads into power-saving technology, including the use of gearless machines with converters that feed regenerative power back to the main power line.

Other innovations from the company include low standby consumption and more environmentally friendly manufacturing methods.

'There have been subtle changes recently where we've moved away from the traditional steel rope to solutions in terms of load-carry elements where the rope is flattened out and encased in polyurethane, which enables Schindler to use smaller, more energy efficient motors,' Mr Seakins said.

Most of the manufacturing is done in the mainland or Switzerland and finished at other centres around the world.

'They're shipped into Hong Kong as one product and we install them locally. Some of the finishes we source locally with interiors and customised fixtures,' Mr Seakins said.

'We can source a whole elevator from China if we choose, although more of the high-end equipment that we use in buildings like AIG and ICC is predominantly sourced from Switzerland.'