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Modern working patterns increase lift energy demand and carbon emissions

Lifts/elevators in modern office buildings are creating unacceptable lift waiting times and burning as much as 36% more energy than predicted, new research reveals.

New flexible working patterns, break-out spaces and a boom in hot-desking and internal meetings are driving the problem by creating many more inter-floor lift journeys in modern office buildings.

With commercial buildings accounting for 50% of UK electricity use in the UK and lifts making up 8% of office buildings’ energy use, the excess energy cost and associated carbon emissions is potentially enormous. Productivity is also being hit, with employees spending up to 15 minutes a day waiting for lifts in many multi-storey office buildings.

Discrepancy between lifts' real and predicted energy use

The new research was carried out by specialist lift consultants SVM Associates and the corporate wellness business StepJockey. The findings echo those of a recent government-funded study which found buildings were falling short of energy performance expectations, routinely causing 3.5-times the carbon emissions they should.

The new study - Smarter Buildings: Real-world energy use of lifts/elevators in contemporary office buildings - compared on-site measurements of lift/elevator energy consumption with predictions from international standards. The study found that:

  • Lifts/elevators burned 16% to 36% more energy in real-world use than the standards predict.
  • The most commonly installed lift type – geared traction lifts – were the worst offenders. The gap between predicted and measured energy consumption was 36%. 
  • Changing working patterns such as flexi-time and hot desking appear to have increased pressure on lift/elevator systems by increasing inter-floor journeys and energy use.
  • Energy costs could be significantly mitigated by promoting stair use.

"Worrying findings"

The research does not suggest deliberate manipulation of data by lift/elevator manufacturers. Instead the problem appears to sit with international standards which use 'ideal' rather than 'real-world' lift/elevator traffic scenarios to estimate total energy use.

But the new study also shows how diverting people away from lifts through stair promotion schemes can significantly reduce lift/elevator energy costs while simultaneously creating productivity savings and boosting workplace health.

SVM Associates director, John Newbold, said: "Our findings will worry many but property professionals need reliable data if they are to make progress. This study shows the importance of direct measurement of lift energy consumption and how, with simple behavioral changes, significant savings can be made".

Paul Nuki, CEO of StepJockey said: "Modern businesses demand much more in the way of teamwork and flexible working to succeed. This has had a major impact on office lift system and the result is that many millions of working hours are being wasted each year. By promoting stair use companies can improve productivity, cut their carbon footprint and boost workplace health".

Smarter Buildings research

Get the in-depth insight into how lift/elevator systems are underperforming - and how their inefficiencies can be remedied.

Download the report