Elevators, or lifts, are vertical transportation devices that move people and goods to various levels and floors of a structure. Designed with a cab (also known as a car, carriage, or cage) that is either pushed or pulled vertically through space via a combination of machines and hoists, elevators are essential building technologies that facilitated the development of skyscrapers. Elevators are commonly distinguished by being either Traction Elevators that use hoist ropes or Hydraulic Elevators that are driven by a hydraulic cylinder.

Who invented the modern elevator?

Elisha Otis invented the ‘safety elevator’ in 1852 which was the first system that demonstrated that it was safe for passengers and widespread use in buildings.

When is an elevator needed?

The need for an elevator depends on the situation, but an elevator is typically needed when a building has three or more floors and is more than 3,000 ft2 | 279 m2.

What are the common types of elevators?

The two most common elevator types are Traction and Hydraulic Elevators. Traction elevators are raised and lowered by steel hoists, while hydraulic systems use pistons.

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Elevators | Lifts

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Traction Elevators | Lifts
Section drawing of a Traction Elevator | Lift showing counterweights, elevator pit, and machine room heights

Traction Elevators are lift systems that use an electric hoisting machine and hoisting cables to raise and lower the elevator car vertically along guide rails. Traction Elevators are a common system for many mid-rise and high-rise structures and require a penthouse machine room to store the mechanical equipment and a counterweight to balance the load placed on the machinery by the car and passengers. Traction Elevators come in two types, geared and gear-less, that differ based on if a gearbox is attached to the motor.

Geared Traction Elevators are slower at 500’ (152 m) per minute and can travel a maximum of 250’ (76 m). Gear-less Traction Elevators have faster speeds of up to 2,000’ (610 m) per minute and can travel up to 2,000’ (610 m).‍ Penthouse machine rooms for Traction Elevators have heights between 10’-12’ (3-3.7 m). The elevator pit depth for a Traction Elevator is in the range of 5’-12’ (1.5-3.7 m) depending on the application.

Traction Elevators are lift systems that use an electric hoisting machine and hoisting cables to raise and lower the elevator car vertically along guide rails. Traction Elevators are a common system for many mid-rise and high-rise structures and require a penthouse machine room and counterweight.

Geared Traction Elevators are slower at 500’ (152 m) per minute and can travel a maximum of 250’ (76 m). Gear-less Traction Elevators have faster speeds of up to 2,000’ (610 m) per minute and can travel up to 2,000’ (610 m).‍ Penthouse machine rooms for Traction Elevators have heights between 10’-12’ (3-3.7 m). The elevator pit depth for a Traction Elevator is in the range of 5’-12’ (1.5-3.7 m) depending on the application.

Traction Elevators | Lifts
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Penthouse Machine Room Height: 10’-12’ | 3-3.7 m
Elevator Pit Depth: 5’-12’ | 1.5-3.7 m
Top Floor Height (with overrun): 16’-20’ | 4.9-6.1 m
Elevator Width: Varies (see Elevator Layouts)
Floor to Floor Height: 12’-14’ | 3.7-4.3 m (typical)
Elevator Door Height: 7’-8’ | 2.1-2.4 m
Additional Space: Penthouse Machine Room
Geared Traction Speeds: 500’ | 152 m per minute
Gear-less Traction Speeds: 2,000’ | 610 m per minute

Drawings include:
Traction Elevator | Lift section (business people)

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Machine-Room-Less Elevators | Lifts
Drawing of a MRL Machine-Room-Less Elevator | Lift system with dimensions for heights and elevator pit depth

Machine-Room-Less (MRL) Elevators are modern traction lift systems that use an electric hoisting machine located within the top of the elevator shaft to hoist the elevator car. Eliminating the penthouse machine room that is necessary for Traction Elevators, the Machine-Room-Less (MRL) Elevator is gaining popularity because they require less space, are energy efficient, and efficiently satisfy the speed and travel requirements of mid-rise buildings.

Machine-Room-Less (MRL) Elevators travel at a speed of 500’ (152 m) per minute with a maximum distance of up to 250’ (76 m). A control room is required at the highest elevator landing and must be adjacent to the elevator shaft and within 150’ (46 m) of the machine.

Machine-Room-Less (MRL) Elevators are modern traction lift systems that uses an electric hoisting machine located within the top of the elevator shaft to hoist the elevator car.

Machine-Room-Less (MRL) Elevators travel at a speed of 500’ (152 m) per minute with a maximum distance of up to 250’ (76 m). A control room is required at the highest elevator landing and must be adjacent to the elevator shaft and within 150’ (46 m) of the machine.

Machine-Room-Less Elevators | Lifts
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Top Floor Height (With Hoisting Machine): 12’-16’ | 4.9-6.1 m
Elevator Pit Depth: 5’-12’ | 1.5-3.7 m
Elevator Width: Varies (see Elevator Layouts)
Floor to Floor Height: 12’-14’ | 3.7-4.3 m (typical)
Elevator Door Height: 7’-8’ | 2.1-2.4 m
Additional Space: Control room required on top floor
Travel Distance: 250’ | 76 m
Travel Speed: 500’ | 152 m per minute

Drawings include:
MRL - Machine-Room-Less Elevators | Lifts section (business people)

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Hydraulic Elevators | Lifts
Drawing with standard dimensions of a Hydraulic Elevator | Lift showing piston depth and heights

Hydraulic Elevators are lift systems that use a hydraulic piston to raise and lower the elevator car. Hydraulic Elevators are typically used for low-rise and mid-rise buildings below 6 stories due to the elevator system’s slower speed and limited piston lengths.

The hydraulic piston sheave and cylinder is located below the elevator pit and must be at least the overall rise plus 4’-7’ (1.2-2.1 m). Hydraulic Elevators have a low initial cost but are limited by a slow travel speed of 200’ (61 m) per minute and a limited distance of approximately 60’ (18.3 m). Hydraulic Elevators have an elevator pit depth of 4’-6’ (1.2-1.8 m) and require an additional machine room at the ground floor adjacent to the elevator shaft.

Hydraulic Elevators are lift systems that use a hydraulic piston to raise and lower the elevator car. Hydraulic Elevators are typically used for low and mid-rise buildings and have a hydraulic piston below the elevator pit.

The hydraulic piston sheave and cylinder is located below the elevator pit and must be at least the overall rise plus 4’-7’ (1.2-2.1 m). Hydraulic Elevators have a low initial cost but are limited by a slow travel speed of 200’ (61 m) per minute and a limited distance of approximately 60’ (18.3 m). Hydraulic Elevators have an elevator pit depth of 4’-6’ (1.2-1.8 m) and require an additional machine room at the ground floor adjacent to the elevator shaft.

Hydraulic Elevators | Lifts
Height:
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Area:

Elevator Pit Depth: 4’-6’ | 1.2-1.8 m
Piston Cylinder Depth: Overall rise + 4’-7’ | 1.2-2.1 m
Elevator Width: Varies (see Elevator Layouts)
Top Floor Height (with overrun): 12’-16’ | 4.9-6.1 m
Floor to Floor Height: 12’-14’ | 3.7-4.3 m (typical)
Elevator Door Height: 7’-8’ | 2.1-2.4 m
Additional Space: Machine Room required at ground floor
Travel Speed: 200’ | 61 m per minute
Max Distance (Approximate): 60’ | 18.3 m

Drawings include:
Hydraulic Elevator | Lift section (business people)

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