Once a concept, now a reality, the multi-directional elevator is set to affect the way buildings are designed and constructed, altering the potential of the ground level footprint and reshaping city skylines.
After unveiling its Multi concept in 2014, German engineering conglomerate ThyssenKrupp has made its vision of a cable-free, Willy Wonka-style elevator design a reality. Over the past few years the company has been constructing a 246m high test tower and refining the technology that would allow multiple cars to move vertically and horizontally in a single shaft using a magnet-based drive system similar to that in Maglev trains. Just last week, after two-and-a-half years of construction, the test tower and first fully functional Multi unit were launched.
The test tower, located in Rottweil, Germany, specifically designed for ThyssenKrupp's research and development contains 12 shafts that can test elevator speeds up to 10 meters per second (22.45 mph), plus three dedicated shafts especially designed for certifying the new cable-free elevator system.
The Multi system is the biggest innovation in elevator design since the cable-dependent elevator was invented over 160 years ago. Replacing cables with linear motors that allow vertical as well as horizontal travel not only results in more cabins being able to travel along single shafts, but also offers architects entirely new possibilities for building design.
Traditional skyscrapers have, until now, been constrained by the necessity of incorporating large and unwieldy elevator shafts that need to run continuously from the top of the building to the bottom. But the Multi system would allow architects the ability to form entirely new shapes and internal designs.
ThyssenKrupp estimates that its Multi system reduces elevator cabin weight by up to 50 percent and allows them to travel along smaller shafts more efficiently. This means that a building would require fewer elevator shafts, yet be able to run more cabins simultaneously by running along looping pathways. Overall, it is estimated the system could increase a building's usable area by up to 25 percent, not to mention the new architectural and design possibilities opened up by the technology.
The magnetic pivoting system allows for multi-directional travel
"We believe MULTI is a genuine game-changer that will truly transform the way people move, work and live in our built environment," says ThyssenKrupp CEO Andreas Schierenbeck. "It will reduce waiting times for passengers and take up significantly less space within the building."
While hyperbolic phrases such as "game-changer" are not unwarranted, we may not see the Multi system in widespread use for some years as it reportedly costs nearly five times more than a conventional elevator system. Despite potentially using up to 60 percent less peak energy than regular elevators, and increasing the usable footprint of a building, this expensive price tag will no doubt slow its initial uptake.
But one German property developer has already taken the plunge. OVG Real Estate's East Side Tower in Berlin will become the first building in the world to host a Multi system. The building is due for completion in 2019.