By Gerhard Hope

It may well be the tallest building on the planet, but the Burj Khalifa can no longer boast the fastest lifts in the world.

A modern lift installation from ThyssenKrupp
A modern lift installation from ThyssenKrupp

That record has now been clinched by the new 1 080 metre/minute lift in the 212.75-metre-high G1 Tower being built by Hitachi in Hitachinaka City, Ibaraki Prefecture in Japan. This will also be the tallest lift research facility in the world.

Utilising the unprecedented height of this new research tower, Hitachi will conduct verification tests on the world’s fastest lift, as well as product development targeting the world’s largest high-speed, high-capacity lift, which will be capable of carrying a five-ton load with a rated speed of 600 metres/min.

In addition to developing vibration suppression control devices and internal air pressure adjustment devices to further improve riding comfort during high-speed operations, the company will undertake development of technologies aimed at reducing the space required for lift shafts, and reducing the weight of the lift cars. The total amount being invested in this research tower, including related facilities, is reportedly about six billion yen.

In recent years, the construction of buildings around the world has been evolving in terms of both height and scale, and the lift market is expected to expand, especially in China. “Right now the hot places in the world for high-rises are China and Korea. We perceive that India is on the verge of taking off, especially Mumbai,” said James Fortune, president and principal of Fortune Consultants, which worked on the Burj Khalifa as well.

Growing demand

In the midst of this market environment, there is a growing demand for high-speed, high-capacity lifts that can carry many passengers at once, safely and comfortably, particularly in high-rise office buildings, commercial complexes, and other large-scale facilities. At the same time, it is necessary for lifts to be environment-friendly, as part of efforts to prevent global warming.

Up to now, Hitachi has developed and tested lifts using a 90-metre-high research tower, constructed in 1967 for the Kasumigaseki Building, one of the tallest high-rise buildings of its day, located on the same premises as the new tower. This year the company also plans to complete a 172-metre-high research tower at a production base in Shanghai, which will be the tallest such tower in China. This new tower will be used to conduct development aimed at expanding Hitachi’s line-up of high-speed lifts for the burgeoning Chinese market.

Vertical transportation was a major feature of the MEP works at the Burj Khalifa. Otis Elevators won the 58-lift contract, which comprised 20 Gen2 flat-belt lifts and two double-deck observation deck lifts. The latter can carry up to 42 people at any one time at a speed of about 18 metres a second. The spire maintenance lift, situated inside a rod at the very top of the building, is the highest lift installation in the world.

Double-deck lifts were selected as more people can be accommodated and transported simultaneously, while the amount of lettable floor space is maintained. With this system, two lift cars share the same shaft while moving independently throughout the building. Located in the central core of the Burj Khalifa, these double-deck lifts transport passengers from ground to levels 123 and 124, where a visitor observation deck and restaurants are situated. These are the highest-rising double-deck lifts in the world.

Access to higher floors

Access to the higher floors of the Burj Khalifa is via general lifts. As per standard practice for high-rise towers, occupants transfer between two or more lifts to reach their destination. The speeds of these lifts range from 1.75 to 7 metres/second. A total of 35 conventional gearless traction lifts are included, plus 20 machineroom-less lifts and one rack-and-pinion type.

Many of the machineroom-less lifts used on the lower floors and office areas are the Gen2 patent from Otis, designed to minimise power consumption and lubrication requirements. Each lift operates between and serves different levels of the building. The Armani Hotel lifts, for example, run to level 39, while a number of the residence lifts will pass the first 39 floors, and then allow passengers to alight at residential floors 40 to 70. Other residence lifts will travel past the first 70 floors and deliver passengers to higher levels.

All of the lifts are electronically controlled with regenerative drives to save power. None of those used in the building are standard off-the-shelf products, although some of those serving the lower floors required less specific modifications. The systems for the main lifts in the central core were virtually designed from scratch, and all include special features.

In addition, several firefighter lifts have been included. The main service lift in the central core acts as the main firefighter and rescue lift. This has a heavy-duty capacity of 4 500 kg, and will travel a total of 136 floors at nine metres/second. Rescue lifts will have the capacity to operate initially in a ‘lifeboat’ mode, with remote control and video inspection of shafts in case of damage, prior to being used for evacuation.

Major lift and escalator companies


Fujitec is a global organisation specializing in the manufacture, installation and service of lifts, escalators and moving walkways. Founded in Osaka in Japan in 1948, it has established a network of 11 manufacturing facilities, four R&D centres and more than 50 sales offices. It established a presence in Dubai in 2002, and is distributed regionally through Al Yousuf Electronics.


Hitachi products are distributed through the lifts and escalators division of Al-Futtaim Engineering. The Tokyo-based company’s innovations include the Flexible Independence (FI) control system with artificial intelligence.


KONE was awarded a 2009 Good Design award, the only lift and escalator company to have ever received such an award in 60 years. Its signalisation panel integrates guiding information, allowing localisation to accommodate the specific functions and regulations of different countries and regions.

Mitsubishi Electric

Represented in Dubai by ETA-MELCO Elevator Company LLC. Mitsubishi Electric offers a range of products, including power systems, transportation systems, lifts and escalators, visual information systems and air-conditioners.


The Schindler group is the largest supplier of escalators and the second largest manufacturer of lifts worldwide. It has around 43’000 employees and its operations span all five continents. Schindler designs, installs, services and modernizes transport systems for almost every building type worldwide. Globally, Schindler equipment moves more than 900 million people per day.

ThyssenKrupp Elevator

One of the world’s leading lift companies, with sales of about €5.3 billion and 43 000 employees at 800 locations.


The world’s largest company involved in the manufacture, installation and service of lifts, escalators and moving walkways. It sells in excess of 133 000 new lifts and escalators a year, with the bulk of its business generated outside the US. It has a global service base of 1.6 million lifts and escalators.