Smart Elevators Bring You There Faster & More Efficiently

If you’ve ever worked in a large office building you know the rare satisfaction that comes when the elevator is sitting there waiting for you and takes you non-stop to your floor. Likewise, you may know the frustration when the elevator stops 10 times before getting you where you need to be. Leave it to German engineering to address the problem with a fantastic type of intelligent elevator — a technology that’s starting to surface in some innovative new buildings.

We visited two high rise bank buildings in Frankfurt during last week’s green building trip (organized by the Ecologic Institute). I talked a little about the LEED platinum Deutsche Bank redevelopment, and I’ll be doing a post soon on KFW bankengruppe and its brand new building, as well. Both buildings feature new smart elevator systems by Schindler, which are almost as fun to ride as the paternosters we discovered elsewhere. ThyssenKrupp and Otis offer similar technology as well, but we’ll focus on Schindler’s technology here.

Here’s how it works:

When you walk into the building’s lobby, you enter your destination floor on a keypad as you approach a bank of elevators. The keypad instantly assigns you to the elevator that will get you most quickly to your floor. It’s all based on clustering groups of people who have the same, or very similar, destinations. The system also works in the other direction, letting full elevators skip floors and minimizing stops on the way down. By clustering riders, random cramming into the first available car is eliminated.

Not only do the elevators get you to your floor faster with less waiting, but the system saves energy and equipment wear by minimizing empty trips – though it’s not stated exactly how much. If you want to get really fancy, the Schindler system is able to identify employees by their ID badges so they don’t even need to press buttons upon entering the building.

smart elevators

In the United States, at least two recent buildings feature the system: The Wells Fargo building in Denver and the Hearst Tower in New York.

As with most German engineering, things can get complicated. Schindler even provides a handy “pocket guide” (PDF here) with more details about riding elevators than you ever thought you might need. Meanwhile, I’ll have to be content with my circa 1930 cage elevator. Nostalgia has it’s value too.

[PDF with more information]

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.