The biggest consumer of energy in the world is buildings, according to Time Magazine. They are responsible for using up 40% of the power in the world, with up to 10% of that number being exhausted by elevators. While individual elevator energy consumption can vary depending on a lot of factors (age, floors, parts, and more), what is clear is that elevator companies have room to improve their ecological footprint. It’s no surprise, then, that eco-friendly initiatives are taking over the industry.
Companies that need an eco-friendly nudge in the right direction can consult with LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. This national organization provides companies with a structure for how to achieve sustainable, green buildings, and is one of the most commonly applied systems in the world. They have principles that can be of use to elevator construction and maintenance too, and you can even earn credits so that projects can gain LEED certification.
The US green building market is worth $81 billion and growing fast, and elevators are a big part of the equation. With Earth Day approaching on April 22nd, we’re sharing a few ways that elevators are going green.
With many of the 900,000 elevators in North America requiring modernization now and in the coming years, according to ThyssenKrupp, elevator companies have the opportunity to utilize green resources in cabs as they are being updated. For example, they could use recycled materials and finishes to build cabs, such as FSC-certified wood and low-emitting paints and coatings. Other important areas for consideration when modernizing with the environment in mind are: the quality of the air, ventilation, and using regionally-produced materials.
For those elevators not quite ready for a complete overhaul, elevator companies can do something as simple as retrofit lighting (including the buttons!) over to LED lights. Compared to regular bulbs, LEDs use a fraction of the energy (4% to be exact, according to Buildipedia).
Bio hydraulic oil
Hydraulic elevators have raised a few red flags in recent years concerning risks to groundwater in case of accidental leaks. While newer and upgraded models often have parts in place to reduce this risk, elevator companies are still switching from imported petroleum fluid to biodegradable hydraulic oil. This oil is often a mineral- or vegetable-based fluid that is made from locally grown resources. The benefit is that this bio fluid generally results in better lubricity and as such, an efficient performance. The cost per gallon may be a few dollars more, but the benefits to the environment are worth it in the long run.
One way to save space and save energy is with machine room-less elevators. While they have been around for a while, MRL elevators have become more widely accepted of late (as building codes continue to adapt to these new innovations) with more companies offering MRL technology. These elevators use smaller gearless motors located in the hoistway rather than in a machine room overhead. Energy consumption is greatly reduced, saving about 70-80% versus other technology. Additionally, since they don’t use hydraulic oil, there isn’t a risk of toxins leaking into the ground.
Holeless hydraulic elevators have also emerged as a newer eco-friendly design for those considering modernization. It uses a telescoping jack system that stands on a “self-contained pit”, meaning that drilling into the ground is not needed. This removes the risk of leaks into the ground associated with using petroleum oils in hydraulic elevators, and makes it a more green option.
Not only do riders get a faster ride, but smart elevators are more energy efficient too. The logic is simple: by grouping together riders going to the same floor, the elevator uses less energy spent on repeat up and down trips with smaller groups. A simple keypad system can allocate riders going to similar floors to the correct elevator. While these are ideal in buildings with more than 10 floors, there are other control systems that can be applied to smaller buildings. For example, systems like these can also assess elevator capacity and reduce the number of elevators in use accordingly (keeping some on standby to minimize waste during non-peak periods.)
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