Building the world’s tallest lift for the world’s tallest building

By the end of this decade the records for the world’s tallest building and highest lift are going to be broken. It has been estimated it will cost $1.2bn to build Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower But this is more meaningful than just another skyscraper, in another place, that most of us will never set eyes on. This could change architecture as we know it.

There are some things most of us just don’t think about. Stepping into a lift and wondering how many floors it could travel may seem too much of a challenge to be worthwhile. Lift-maker Kone has spent many years considering this problem though.

“While elevators have enabled the rise of city skylines, the technology had reached its height limit,” explains its director of high rise technology, Santeri Suoranta. “Elevators travelling distances of more than 500m [1,640 ft] were not feasible as the weight of the [steel] ropes themselves become so large that more ropes were needed to carry the ropes themselves.”

ultra rope koneBut the company’s quest for a solution has borne fruit. After nine years of rigorous testing, it has released Ultrarope – a material composed of carbon-fibre covered in a friction-proof coating. It weighs a seventh of the steel cables, so is more energy efficient, has twice the lifespan, and most notably, it makes lifts of up to 1km (0.6 miles) in height a lot easier to build.

Other lift manufacturers, like Toshiba, Mitsubishi, Otis, Schindler, et al, have been raising their game too. They’ve been battling on in the contest to create more eco-friendly, less expensive to run, easier to install, taller and/or faster lifts. But Kone’s creation was chosen to be installed in what’s destined to become the world’s tallest building. When completed in 2020, The Kingdom Tower, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia will stand a full kilometre in height, and will boast the world’s tallest lift at 660m (2,165ft). Edited from Lift me higher: Building the world’s tallest lift.

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