Cutting-Edge Elevator Technology

Elevating architecture with destination dispatch controls
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Sponsored by Schindler Elevator Corporation
C.C. Sullivan

Implications for New Construction

Beyond these benefits for building occupants and owners, there are new trends in architectural design that leverage and exploit the technology. In project pre-planning and schematic design, studies of intended elevator usage and user behaviors should be considered in developing the core design and circulation scheme. User data can be analyzed and weighed against factors such as building code limits on elevator car speed; the results will inform such choices as core and bank layouts, number of elevator shafts and cars, as well as shaft heights, express and skip-stop options, as well as dedicated elevators for specific uses or occupants.

Incorporating destination-dispatch models into project planning can alter the potential design results. Alterations both subtle and radical represent increased architectural flexibility to improve upon delivery of project goals, including the following areas:

Traffic patterns. Typical elevator designs are based on up peak roundtrip time calculations, which describe the volume handled during a peak in trips up the elevators—for example, a morning rush-hour or post-lunchtime maximum in an office building. These trip times usually do not include the time end-users spend waiting alone or in clusters for the next car.

Unlike standard two-button controls, a destination control terminal assigns a particular car to each rider, alerting them as to which car will serve them. This allows the building designers more latitude in where elevator shafts are located: elevators and elevator banks can be spaced farther from one another, if desired, to separate uses—a hotel and condominium, for example—or so they are better positioned to serve the layout needs of upper floors. The elevator control interface can be located centrally, which then directs the user to a specific car—by letter, for example—among multiple banks.

Dispersing riders among various banks and cars also eases flow of traffic and crowding. The data collection and analysis capabilities of some destination-dispatch systems can also adjust the elevator response to new patterns. For instance, some high-traffic floors may require destination-based dispatching more than others, simply based on the particular occupant's business. The control system can be reprogrammed to suit these needs, which frees the architectural design team from having to predict changing use patterns.

“These options also improve circulation flow and the way users move through buildings while providing more efficiency for the building owner,” says Schindler's Lippman. “With today's personalization and access capabilities, buildings in general have better handling capacities, lower overall wait times and lower traffic times in all modes: up peak, down peak, interfloor and the like.”

Lobby layout and lift planning. Elevator layouts have traditionally been dictated by efficiency of core area, user proximity, and accessibility requirements such as the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). With this in mind, a four-elevator bank should stand two-facing-two. This is only logical: Having three or four or more cars in line would downgrade service by requiring longer door-hold times to comply with local codes, ADAAG and other accessibility requirements.

Replacing conventional controls with destination-based systems removes this design constraint, offering architects the freedom to plan the best layout for achieving the client's other project objectives. It may be that the client wishes to offer VIP tenants a private waiting area, or that having 10 elevator cars in-line delivers some desired layout need or visual impact. Destination dispatch more easily accommodates these design options, rendering old rules-of-thumb for lift planning nearly obsolete.

Stacking. Destination-based controls, being readily programmable, adjust to serve tenants occupying multiple floors.

Stacked office floors, for example, can be grouped to dedicate a car or cars to serve those floors at peak times. Likewise, a floor that serves multiple uses benefits from the control system's pre-programmed understanding of the traffic patterns, security protocols, priority riders and more. These features leave the design team free to program the floor space, unencumbered by the task of imagining configurations of tenants and space usage.

Operational flexibility and adaptation. Building owners tend to be acutely aware of future uses for their facilities as organizational and market conditions evolve. Many owners value buildings that are easily repurposed.

The flexibility inherent in the destination-based control system eases adapting to new building uses downstream. Commercial space could potentially be converted to residential space, for instance, with virtually zero alteration to the vertical transportation footprint. This flexibility eases or eliminates many limitations of elevator layout for the design team.

Phased Modernization, Office

The Crescent, a massive office complex in Dallas exceeding 1.1 million square feet, boasts an impressive 50 elevators and six escalators. A prestige location, the Crescent houses the Dallas-Fort Worth area offices of major investment banks and financial firms.

Composed of a 19-story central tower and two 18-story wing towers, the complex’s modernization requirements included a phased approach, thereby inconveniencing as few tenants as possible at any one time. In addition to new regenerative drives, the updated elevator system will also feature destination dispatch, which users will operate with individual RFID badges. The software identifies the passengers, and attempts to learn their typical movement patterns throughout the complex, in order to offer efficient, personalized service.

The Crescent’s management, mindful of the possibility that they could be faced with modernization again in the future, is particularly appreciative of the system’s adaptability. “We are not just buying an elevator modernization for today,” says Rick Flusche, an assistant operations manager. “But a system for the future, one that is scalable and expandable.”

The Crescent, a large Dallas office complex with 50 elevators, incorporated destination-dispatch elevator controls as part of a phased retrofit. Users operate the elevators with programmed RFID badges.

Photo courtesy of Schindler Elevator Corporation


Aesthetics and impact. A feature particular to destination dispatch technology is the hall call interface, the keypad or touchscreen panels that are used by occupants to enter desired floor numbers. Whether a numeric keypad or the more sophisticated touchscreen, this interface represents an important “touchpoint” or point of contact for occupants and visitors.


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Originally published in Architectural Record