E&T book blog: Let’s face the muzak

lobby-sign-72dpiThe sheer scale of many modern office buildings makes using a lift at some point during the working day pretty much unavoidable. Avoiding the hassle of walking up and down stairs may have started out as a novelty; but when there are more than a couple of flights involved there’s not really any alternative to hitting the call button and waiting to squeeze into the box that’s going in the right direction.

The problem, according to a new study, is that not only are lifts making us lazier, they’re also using way more energy than they should. On top of that is the psychological effect of ‘lift rage’

‘Smarter Buildings: Real-world energy use of lifts/elevators in contemporary office buildings’ is based on research by lift consultants SVM Associates, and ‘corporate wellness’ business StepJockey, a ‘corporate wellness’ business dedicated to encouraging physical activity in the workplace whose clients include the BBC, Deloitte, JLL, L&G, Public Health England and the NHS.

They claim that on-site measurements of energy consumption were up to a third greater than predicted by international standards, with the geared-traction models that are the most common among the worst offenders. “With commercial buildings accounting for around half of UK electricity use, and lifts making up 8 per cent of office buildings’ energy use, the excess energy cost and associated carbon emissions is potentially enormous,” they conclude.

At the same time, flexible working, breakout spaces and a boom in hotdesking and internal meetings are driving the problem by creating many more inter-floor lift journeys. Productivity is also being hit, with employees spending up to 15 minutes a day waiting for lifts. The phenomenon of ‘lift rage’ is apparently on the increase, as is ‘elevator hacking’, where tips on gaming lift systems are exchanged on the web.

Of course, there’s a point to this, which is to suggest that workers can save energy, get fit and reduce stress simply by skipping the lift and taking the stairs. Sounds like a win-win idea, except that there are some situations where it’s just not an option.

Enter the latest edition of the ‘Elevator Traffic Handbook:Theory and Practice’ (Routledge, £95, ISBN 9781138852327), Gina Barney and Lutfi Al-Sharif’s authoritative guide to all aspects of vertical transportation systems in buildings, which has become the essential reference for engineers and researchers, as well as other members of lift-system design teams.

Gina Barney is principal of Gina Barney Associates, who throughElevator Traffic Handbook her 50 years in practice, research and lecturing has had a profound influence on this field of engineering. Co-author Lutfi Al-Sharif of the University of Jordan, who as well as his academic credentials has 30 years of experience including working for manufacturer Jordan Lift & Crane, and for clients such as London Underground.

Written as a definitive guide to its subject, the new edition features extensive updates to technology and practice, drawing on the latest international research.Not cheap, and not for the non-specialist, but definitely the book to turn to for guidance on a subject that – regardless of our best intentions to be more active – is only going to increase in importance.

Dominic Lenton

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