Hong Kong's lifts fail to make grade in list of world's fastest

City fails to make the grade in list of the fastest elevators, despite having the most skyscrapers (but it's still a lot speedier than taking stairs)

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 February, 2013, 3:07pm

Life's full of ups and downs - especially if you live in Hong Kong. But taking the lift can be more time-consuming than in other major cities.

Hong Kong is home to the most skyscrapers in the world, more than double the number in New York. But surprisingly, it fails to feature in a list of the globe's top five fastest lifts.

Top of the rankings, compiled by buildings database Emporis, is Taipei's 101 Tower, which travels at an impressive 16.8 metres per second, or 60km/h.

Hong Kong's tallest building, the International Commerce Centre (ICC) in West Kowloon, has some of the quickest lifts in the city, reaching top speeds of 9 metres per second, or 32.4km/h.

But the title of fastest lift in Hong Kong goes to the little-known Landmark East building in Kwun Tong, with a top speed of 10 metres per second, or 36km/h. It hits the top speed for about 10 seconds during a 35-second trip.

One key difference is that the ICC lifts are double-decker, with each lift weighing 1,800kg - so they are actually more powerful than the single-decker lifts at the Landmark East. Both are made by Swiss company Schindler, which vies for business alongside competitors such as Otis, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, ThyssenKrupp and KONE.

Wong Ming-wan, 56, is technical director of Schindler Lifts in Hong Kong and has worked in the industry for 36 years.

"Lifts are so important in Hong Kong, but [using the lift] is like second nature - people don't notice their existence unless they are not working," he said.

While the city's lifts may not be the quickest, the time it takes for the doors to open and close is more in keeping with its residents' fast-paced lifestyle.

Many open within 1.5 seconds and close within 2.5 seconds to three seconds - speedier than in other major cities.

Hong Kong is also understood to have the most lifts for a city of its size with 60,356, according to the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department. Many of those service the city's 1,300 skyscrapers - buildings rising 100 metres or more. There are also more than 6,500 high-rises - buildings with 12 to 39 floors.

And based on an admittedly rather unscientific analysis of lift-use carried out by the Sunday Morning Post, the average Hongkonger will spend the equivalent of one day per year - or two months during a time span of 60 years - in a lift.

This estimate is based on the assumption that most Hongkongers will spend four minutes per day in a lift and does not include the use of lifts in places such as shopping centres, or the waiting time.

The calculation also fails to take account of the nightmare scenario - being stuck in one.

So it's reassuring to know that the city employs about 5,000 technicians to repair and maintain lifts and almost 300 lift engineers who install them.

Schindler operates about 10,000 of the city's lifts and 86 in the ICC alone. Its staff of 600 attend about 30 to 40 breakdowns a day.

There are no official figures on how much time Hongkongers spend in lifts, but estimates would be comparable with New York, which has 575 skyscrapers - about half of the total here.

In 2010, IBM surveyed 6,500 workers in 16 American states and found the cumulative time all respondents had spent either waiting for or stuck in a lift was 125 years over a 12-month period.