Cutting-Edge Elevator Technology

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

Yet the controls are not always programmed for energy use alone. “Destination-based controls opt for getting the riders to their destination as quickly as possible,” says Lippman. “In lighter traffic times, that may not be the most energy-efficient operation. To counteract this, the system can include an eco-mode that adapts acceptable wait times to the current traffic pattern. Fine-tuning this to the needs of the building will produce the optimal balance.”

Comparisons of the smart elevators as compared to systems not using destination dispatch give an idea of possible gains in energy efficiency. According to the building management firm Golub & Co., the new control products cut elevator-related energy consumption by about 23 percent at 680 North Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, a 29-story mixed-use building. In this case the new system was first interfaced to existing controllers, says Golub's general manager Tim Conway, which took only one weekend for the front-end installation. Estimating based on generic figures for a 30-story building, this represents annual savings per car of more than $1,000 (at $0.10 per kWh) and a reduction in carbon emissions equivalent to the consumption of nearly 800 gallons of gasoline.

Operational Efficiency

The modernization has also improved operations at the Chicago property. “We've done some traffic studies with wait time and destination time,” says Conway, “and those have improved closer to 50 percent.” This notable improvement can be extrapolated for even better outcomes in new construction projects, where the entire elevator core and floor plan are designed with destination-dispatch features in mind.

“With destination dispatch, each car makes fewer intermediate starts and stops,” says Lippman. “Loading and unloading is expedited through the assignment of users to cars. All of this reduces time spent in transit for the user.”

The retrofit market is ripe with opportunity for such improvements. For example, the Marriott Marquis hotel near New York City's Times Square adopted an earlier version of destination dispatch in 2006. The main goal was performance improvements in guest experience, which was badly needed. “There were never enough elevators,” recalls Mike Stengel, general manager and area vice president of New York City Marriott. The hotel received an average of five complaint letters each week about lengthy elevator wait times. Stengel responded with apologies and offers of free dinners and other appeasements to hotel guests claiming wait times of up to 30 minutes.

The project team predicted a 15 percent to 20 percent increase in efficiency, and the estimates were surpassed. The entire modernization, including conversion of some service cars to guest cars, improved the system's efficiency by about 50 percent once fully implemented, as reported by “I have not gotten one elevator complaint letter since we turned them on,” says Stengel. “It was like shutting off a faucet.”1

Benefits for Owners and Users

Stories like the Marriott modernization underscore the value inherent in the latest generation of destination-dispatch elevators that enhance not just their own performance, but occupant experience and owner satisfaction, too. For the most part, these features are dependent upon gathering data on users and personalizing service to the individual user.


Next-generation personalization approaches expand the technology to encompass varied command and communication functions. Analytic programming and predictive software are integrated into these highly customized systems to further enhance traffic flow and operational performance of the elevators. Based on positioning of the keypad or touchscreen in the path of travel, the controls begin to dispatch a car before the user has even reached the elevator lobby. Some potential features of such a system include:

  • Predictive call entry. This displays the users most likely destinations on the control panel, based on previous behaviors and on current time and location.
  • Pre-programmed operation. Programming a card for specific destinations doubles as a convenience and a security feature.
  • Contextual operation. This generates the user's list of potential destinations based on the current floor (above the lobby). Examples include the multiple office floors leased by a single company or secure floors of a facility.
  • Touchless operation. The user holds the card to the reader, until the display panel indicates or highlights the desired destination.

These features help improve performance—wait and travel times, handling capacity, etc.—while simultaneously improving the user experience. The card reader can interact with the building's card-access security system, providing automatic destination call service at the lobby barrier point, or it can stand alone at the elevator lobby. Either way, the system can store, analyze and leverage user data to continue to improve performance results.

Security and Safety

A comprehensive destination-based system that uses card readers at call stations can easily interface with most building security protocols. This means that the owner enjoys increased security, and can also mean that the user enjoys a safer building environment. Security features of dispatch systems mostly center on the question of access, and mainly address issues of entry at the lobby barrier:

  • Elevator assignment. Card reader at barrier provides entry and automatically assigns a car.
  • Forward credentialing. Invalidates card if it is not used when required for access. (User must return to lobby or other security point to reactivate card.)


It is also possible to add another level of features to cater to building occupancies and tenants looking for a high-end approach to the on-site experience for employees, visitors or guests. These customization features and protocols are designed to ease user movement through the building, reduce or eliminate concerns over wait times and access, and enhance the building environment in ways that bring added functionality or revenue to the owner.

Renovation/Retrofit, Health Insurance

“This 12-story building moves as many tenants as some skyscrapers,” noted Steve Evans, Humana workplace solutions associate, about Humana’s Waterside Building in Louisville, Kentucky. The heavy demand on the building’s elevators prompted the stakeholders to seek an efficient controls solution for this midrise.

Humana Waterside was the first adopter of a novel destination-dispatch technology in the United States. Humana leadership liked the risk profile: They would be able to investigate the movement patterns of Humana associates through the control system’s built-in applications. Even better would be the 250% estimated improvement in performance and efficiency, and wait-times reduced by 75%—from 2 minutes to 30 seconds.

“Our associates get much more than just an elevator ride,” adds Evans. “They get a journey, moving and experiencing their environment with more comfort and efficiency than ever before.”



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Originally published in Architectural Record