A Webb & Brooker Publication March 2011 


Hydraulic life cycle analysis studies help manufacturers quantify and evaluate the environmental impact of their products.

As green initiatives become an essential part of many building projects, elevator companies are creating plans to execute and maintain long-term visions toward a goal of sustainability. Some elevator manufacturers have committed to evaluate and quantify the current environmental impact of their products through life cycle assessments (LCA). These analyses cover the product’s life, from the impact of procuring resources to the manufacturing processes to shipping, installation, service maintenance, repair and modernization improvements. The process takes into account energy utilized in both manufacturing and shipping, as well as the product’s use phase. The assessment also reviews information on resultant waste generated and its disposal or recycling. An internationally recognized tool often used to guide LCA projects is International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14040, Environmental Management: Lifecycle Assessment—Principles and Framework.

The majority of an elevator’s environmental impact over a lifetime is during the equipment’s use phase. Leading companies are focusing on reductions in energy use via research and development on newly manufactured products, but are looking for ways to increase elevator efficiency and reduce energy consumption by monitoring, upgrading and installing new equipment on existing products as well.

Elevators and Energy
All elevators use energy. Although levels of energy efficiency may vary among them, most new elevators make up a very small percentage—generally three to five percent—of a building’s overall energy consumption. In the past, however, elevators with less efficient technology utilized a much larger footprint of a building's energy use. Motor generators were necessary until a few decades ago in order to take AC power and convert it into usable DC power to run the machine, which moved the elevator. DC machines were required to control the precision of the lift for leveling, acceleration, deceleration and positioning. Advances in AC technology allow elevators to control the same parameters with even greater accuracy, thereby eliminating the additional step of converting AC power to DC power.

Currently in the Unites States, it is estimated that 200,000 motor generator drives are being used to power elevators. These older drives consume approximately 40,000 kWh of electricity annually, approximately 72-percent more than modern drives available on the market today. As a point of reference, the amount of energy used by these outdated drives is enough to power 80,000 homes annually.

In addition to a reduction in the energy needed to run motor generator equipment, the decrease in associated machine room cooling is significant. Upgrading to current technology results in a 45-percent reduction in associated BTUs in the elevator machine room. Over the building’s lifetime, the savings in cooling cost is quite substantial.

The move away from old MG sets also eliminates potential indoor air quality (IAQ) issues associated with carbon dust created by using carbon brushes in the machines themselves. Typical DC generators require multiple carbon brushes to operate. It is estimated that a single brush can emit 272.16 grams of carbon dust monthly or 7.2 pounds annually per generator (based on 16 brushes per generator). In a large building with multiple elevators, the amount of dust per pound and the coinciding number of filters needed to keep that dust out of the air is considerable when multiplied over multiple units and multiple years of service.

Using light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for illumination and programming the controller to shut off the fan and lights when the unit is not in use are two simple, cost-effective practices to further enhance energy efficiency in both existing buildings and new construction projects. Traditionally, elevators of past generations were not programmed to turn off the lights when the unit was not in service. The impact of lights running continuously in a single elevator over a 25-year life is significant. Now, consider 200,000 MG units with nine incandescent bulbs each running for 25 years. By installing automatic light shutoff, enough energy to power almost another 80,000 homes for a year could be saved.

Whether modernizing existing elevators or installing new ones, the reduction of operating costs through green upgrades can outweigh capital costs in a reasonable timeframe. Expenses associated with creating a sustainable elevator system range from minor upgrades, such as lighting improvements, to a complete energy-efficient system design and installation. Once simple elevator upgrades like LED lighting are installed, a building’s energy consumption decreases, helping building owners save money on a yearly basis. These upgrades also benefit building owners through improved tenant retention and attraction.

Service and Modernization
Elevators running at their peak performance use less energy, create a more pleasant riding experience and improve air quality. To maximize the performance and safety of elevator products, a code-compliant preventive maintenance program is important.

One of the many benefits of modernizing an elevator system with new drives, controllers and machines is a machine room environment that is cleaner, cooler and safer.

Historically, 80 percent of all elevator trouble calls are related to doors and door operation. A typical elevator door opens 1.75 million times over 10 years. Closed loop technology, accompanied by a digital control system, allows for settings to overcome changes in atmospheric conditions, minor obstacles in the door track and other door-related problems. Upgrading to closed loop door operator technology can significantly reduce callbacks.

Partnering with a reliable service provider can ensure equipment is maintained to the highest industry standards, providing safe service to meet the elevators’ expected life cycle. Remote monitoring options are available to keep property managers up-to-date on a building’s elevator systems. By detecting possible problems early, these monitoring systems are an efficient way to reduce unnecessary emergency callbacks and eliminate unneeded paperwork. As the systems can be enabled and viewed from anywhere in the world, building management has real-time data at its fingertips, anytime from anyplace.

Selecting a Service Provider
Consider the following when selecting a service provider:

  • Experience. It is essential that service professionals are knowledgeable about all new products and technology, industry standards and, most importantly, safety precautions. Training programs that include field and local sessions, as well as regular factory seminars, are crucial. Field engineers should also be available at any time.

  • Service. Even after an elevator’s warranty expires, it is important it receives preventive maintenance to ensure optimum and safe performance. This maintenance should involve fast, reliable service and trained technicians. Most companies offer programs that can be customized to fit a building owner’s specific needs.

  • Parts. It is essential that service parts be available as needed. When selecting a provider, it is important to ensure they have access to an extensive inventory of spare parts, as well as an efficient parts distribution system for getting equipment out quickly.

  • Compliance with regulations. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) stipulates buildings must comply with new requirements that make elevators easier to operate by people with special needs. If an elevator is deemed as noncompliant with current regulations, the service provider should be able to provide a quick, cost-effective solution.

  • Modernization. Elevator modernizations can update an elevator’s performance, reduce energy consumption and decrease impact on IAQ. Cab and lobby upgrades can offer a new updated look, compared to older styles. Experienced technicians and engineers can customize modernization packages that are both time- and cost-efficient.

About the Author: Sasha Bailey, LEED AP BD+C, is a corporate sustainability manager in ThyssenKrupp Elevator's Americas Business Unit. She can be contacted via e-mail at Sasha.Bailey@thyssenkrupp.com.

Source: Boma Magazine