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New Horizontal Elevator Will Make You Rethink Megacity Construction

Buildings can’t be constructed higher than elevators can go, so a new invention ditches the ropes, harnesses the power of linear motor technology, and allows multiple cars to move in a single shaft— both vertically and horizontally. And it’s changing the future of megacity construction.


Looking Back at Elevators

The elevator was invented in 1854, and not a lot has changed in the way it’s moved since then. The system has been the same: one cabin, one shaft, and one rope, traveling up and down.

Wooden elevator in a metal shaft. One of the first commercial designs introduced in hotels.


Designs that included one cabin with one shaft caused ridiculous wait times, especially in busy office buildings where there was only one car moving up and down, a few people at a time.

Next came the double-decker elevator. Since the two cabins were stacked, it could move several people at once. However, the building had to be constructed, or if possible, renovated, with taller ceilings to allow for the height of two cabins. Also, extra power was needed to move two cars at the same time, even if one cabin was left unoccupied.

In 2003, the twin elevator was invented to offer more efficiency, flexibility, and convenience for passengers and building owners. It allowed two cabins to move independently in one shaft, giving 30% more room and reducing the footprint by the same percentage.

Graphic from ThyssenKrupp showing traditional, double-decker, and twin elevator.


Because of the increasing concern of efficiency and time savings, elevator tech innovation was long overdue. According to research on Elevator Scheduling by Columbia State University students, New York City office workers spent a cumulative 16.6 years waiting for an elevator, and 5.9 years inside elevators in 2010. The results were calculated based on things like:

  • Arrival time (beginning of the day, lunch, end of the day)
  • Floors (1st floor seeing longer wait times)
  • Maximum elevator capacity
  • Passenger patience (do they wait or do they abandon?)
  • Requests to go up or down
  • Number of building occupants vs. time (seconds) to reach destination
  • Nearest elevator
  • Nearest elevator with capacity considerations

“New York City office workers spent a cumulative 16.6 years waiting for an elevator, and 5.9 years inside elevators in 2010.”


In determining a solution for elevator scheduling, the students concluded that there was no “best” algorithm. They did, however, conclude that forecasting, context scheduling, and ant colony optimization were areas needing significant improvement.


The Future of Cities are Mega

Speaking of ant colonies...some say, in the future, people will colonize in megacities, constraining the environment we live in. As people move in, more space will be required. The solution? Build up.

As global population increases, so will the need for megacities by the end of the century. In fact, half of the world lives in cities already, and this number is predicted to leap to 70% by the end of 2100. This increase in construction for new buildings means that preserving green areas for nature and recreation will become even more challenging.

According to ThyssenKrupp, a German engineering company, mid to high-rise buildings offer the most economical and environmentally viable solution to the numerous urban challenges. ThyssenKrupp believes taller buildings provide more working and living quarters without increasing their footprint on the ground. They even say that tall buildings allow planners to have smart grids by enabling centralized, intelligent energy control.

However, one of the main challenges with building up is elevator mechanics. Since conventional elevators aren’t really created for buildings this tall, more shafts are needed to support them.


MULTI: The Future of Elevators

Ropes moving elevators up and down simply won’t cut it for taller building demands. There is a new system called MULTI by ThyssenKrupp that eliminates the need for ropes by harnessing the power of linear motor technology to move multiple cars in a single shaft— both vertically and horizontally.


ThyssenKrupp MULTI Is Now a Reality [VIDEO]


The new elevator offers significantly shorter wait times, increased capacity, a smaller footprint, and substantially reduced weight and mass. MULTI has multiple cabins that travel up one shaft and down the other in one continuous loop. This is similar to a circular train system on a vertical plane.

The best part? Passengers don’t even notice a difference, and the doors open every 15 to 30 seconds. The efficiency problems addressed by the aforementioned Columbia University students have been solved by MULTI.

Now, we might be left to reimagine commercial construction to account for elevator technology long overdue. What do you think MULTI means for the future of building design? Comment below and let us know.