The tower cuts a striking figure on the Auckland skyline; image courtesy of SKYCITY Entertainment Ltd.

KONE provides fast, energy-efficient elevator system for New Zealand’s iconic Sky Tower.

Standing 328 m tall in Auckland, New Zealand, Sky Tower is the tallest manmade structure in the Southern Hemisphere and one of New Zealand’s top tourist attractions. Its observation decks and restaurants provide visitors with stunning views of the greater Auckland area and surrounding coastline. SKYCITY Auckland, the gaming and entertainment entity that owns Sky Tower, wanted an energy-efficient, high-tech vertical-transportation system to provide a world-class experience for visitors.

SKYCITY called on KONE to deliver the system, which includes KONE’s carbon-fiber hoisting technology UltraRope® due to its ability to increase speed, reduce energy consumption and mitigate building sway (ELEVATOR WORLD, October 2015). It is the first UltraRope installation in the Southern Hemisphere. In addition to UltraRope, used in the tower’s service elevator, the modernization consisted of:

  • Three ReGenerateTM 800 elevators
  • PolarisTM hybrid destination control
  • One long-travel ReGenerate 800 service elevator
  • ReNovaTM doors
  • ReViveTM signalization

One of the main reasons for investing in modernizing Sky Tower’s vertical-transportation system was the fact that the reliability of its existing lift equipment had diminished over time. In addition, every time the tower was subjected to strong winds, it would sway, meaning the lifts would have to stop operating, as it was unsafe. As an extremely busy tourist destination, every second of downtime is directly attributable to lower visitor volumes. Shutting down the lifts triggered a costly chain reaction, in that SKYCITY Auckland had to contact every person and group booked to visit the tower and tell them not to come.

On top of that, SKYCITY was looking for ways to reduce energy consumption and be a market leader in energy efficiency. To that end, KONE developed a solution to modernize Sky Tower’s three passenger lifts with conventional ropes. For the fourth, most critical, service elevator, UltraRope technology was put into use. That not only cut energy consumption and reduced the effects of building sway, but also shed more than 3,600 kg of rope weight compared with that of conventional steel cables. The Sky Tower elevator could now be used in higher wind conditions than in the past. The modernized units have achieved energy savings of more than 20%.

While the former elevator service company had to send someone up the tower to take building-sway measurements, KONE’s automated solution detects wind velocity and cuts elevator speed by half when wind speed is high. If wind speed exceeds safety limits, the elevators will automatically park at a safe floor, allowing Sky Tower to remain operational in all but the most extreme wind conditions.

With safety, speed and eco efficiency all improved, visitors to Sky Tower can now look forward to an improved passenger experience. For SKYCITY, happier customers and improved traffic flow lead directly to increased revenue.

KONE believes it won this project based on the reliability of its equipment and reactive nature of its sway-detection technology. The company states:

“KONE’s technology was a huge improvement over the original system. In the past, the former lift provider’s ‘sway-detection technology’ consisted of manually measuring the wind velocity and then deciding whether or not the wind was too strong before manually shutting the lifts down. KONE’s solution introduced sway sensors that continuously measure wind velocity and automatically reduce the speed of the upgraded lifts to a more comfortable level. Only when the wind reaches an excessively high velocity do the lifts cease operating and park at a safe floor. KONE’s technology continues to monitor wind speed and automatically returns the lifts to service when the wind abates.” 

The three passenger lifts that take visitors from the base of the tower up to the observation deck and restaurant levels travel more than 200 m, but serve only seven levels. The single central service lift travels 229 m and serves all 29 floors in the tower and is primarily used for all back-of-house activities. In addition to satisfying these operational requirements, this lift also acts as a shuttle to take visitors from the main observation decks to a higher observation deck with additional attractions.

Working with local companies Custombilt Steel Ltd., which fabricated components such as door skins and car-entrance returns, and heavy-load moving specialist EIT Movers, KONE produced a modern, efficient elevator system of which it is proud and one that fulfills the requirements of Sky Tower.

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Elevator World Associate Editor

Elevator World | March 2017 Cover