The Environmental Sustainability of Lifts

Lifts or elevators – whichever side of the Atlantic you choose to take your language cues from – have been in public use for decades. However, did you know that Archimedes invented the first type of lift over 2000 years ago? Unfortunately, this type of lift wouldn’t be acceptable for modern day society, especially since this lift used ropes that were wrapped around a drum that was rotated by manpower. Imagine trying to use manpower to lift passenger lifts? You’d think twice about taking the stairs.

One benefit that this type of lift does have over other derivatives is that it is possibly the most environmentally friendly, as no electricity is used. But what makes your typical – non-manpowered – lift environmentally friendly, and why is it important in the modern era?

What is Environmental Sustainability?

In the past, this was something that people, and businesses for that matter, didn’t consider when undergoing certain projects. However, it is now something that is considered no matter what the project is, thanks to the 2005 World Summit on Social Development set up by the United Nations.

Before we look at what environmental sustainability is, we need to understand what sustainability is in general and what it aims to do for us as a society. Sustainability is the process that humans want to pursue so that they can reach a common goal that benefits all life on Earth.

This common goal encompasses three key developments that are incredibly important to our society and the way that we live; social, economic, and environmental. These are also referred to as the ‘Pillars of Sustainability’, and they all focus on different, yet incredibly important, ideas.

The environmental development is what we mean by environmental sustainability; the main focus of environmental sustainability is to ensure that the rates of the processes that can affect the environment, such as renewable resource harvesting, and non-renewable resource depletion are continued for an indefinite amount of time.

This is important because, if these aren’t continued for this indefinite period, then it means that they are not sustainable.

What Does Environmental Sustainability Cover?

Environmental sustainability covers a whole host of issues, such as:

  • Cutting down on the things that affect the Earth’s atmosphere; such as air pollution, the use of CFCs, and greenhouse gases.
  • Preserving the natural state of the oceans on Earth; sea levels are rising due to global warming and coral bleaching is an issue due to changes in environmental conditions.
  • Loss of biodiversity, due to the introduction of man-made infrastructures, deforestation, water irrigation, and use of harmful pesticides that can affect crop yield.

With this in mind, it is fair to say that everything we do, as a society, can have a massive impact on the environment. For example, in the UK, the peak electricity consumption per capita was 6,270.98 kWh, which was a record in 2005. However, by 2004, 50.5 million tonnes of coal were used as fuel for the national grid (look at the PDF report here), which can have incredibly harmful effects on the environment and the atmosphere.

As a result of the 2005 Summit, things had to change. In fact, by 2011, the electricity consumption per capita decreased by 12.74% and, in 2016, Britain generated no electricity from coal, which is believed to be the first time since the 19th century.

Thankfully, this isn’t just a development in regards to electricity; companies all around the world are making sure that they are making less of an impact on the environment to make things more environmentally sustainable, so that the generations that come after ours can live a life where air pollution, coral bleaching, and smog are outdated.

Understanding Environmental Sustainability in the Public Sector

Environmental sustainability is something that needs to be controlled and maintained indefinitely, and it is particularly important in the public sectors. This is due to the fact that energy is consumed day after day in huge amounts in the public sector; such as transportation, energy usage in offices, warehouses, and so on.

Other than public transport, energy usage in offices is one of the largest energy users. You might not think this is true, but office energy usage can include:

  • Electricity for lights
  • Gas for heating
  • Energy used for other maintenance issues

These all add up, resulting in a huge energy usage which can affect the environment massively. According to one study conducted in the United States in 2013, one fifth of the US’s entire energy consumption is due to commercial buildings, which includes offices, retail structures, and educational premises.

Experts in the field have said that, unless companies become more sustainable, energy consumption within the sector will rise and will cost more to maintain, which will cause more damage to the environment and the companies’ wallets.

Are Lifts Changing in Compliance with Environmental Sustainability?

Lifts are structures that are used in a multitude of industries, but they are extremely popular within the public sector since they can be used in:

Hospitals, so that patients and their loved ones can access different floors with ease
Shopping centres, so lots of people can access floors at the same time
Office buildings, as some offices will be high above the ground and need to be accessed quickly

But how do you make a lift environmentally sustainable? The first step is to make sure that the mechanisms that are used are energy efficient. Previously, lifts were designed to maximise the capacity, particularly regarding the number of people that they can carry. The more people you can carry, the better the operations are.

However, this isn’t environmentally sustainable, mainly because more energy is required to move the lift, which is more harmful to the environment. To rectify this, lift manufacturing companies around the world, predominantly in the US and the UK looked for more sustainable designs.

This would include designs that used less electricity than previously implemented, as well as adding sustainability to the design, and construction of the lift itself. Because lifts are relatively large structures, such as passenger lifts, it is important to make sure that their construction is sustainable, so making sure that the final result aids the building’s environmental performance.

An example of making sure that these processes are environmentally sustainable is through an environmental assessment, such as BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). BREEAM is responsible for using sustainability assessment methods to make sure that projects, infrastructure, and buildings comply with the environmental regulations that are put in place.

Currently, BREEAM has issued over half a million certificates and have over two million registered buildings under their belt. BREEAM aim to address the following categories:

  • Energy
  • Innovation
  • Land use
  • Materials
  • Management
  • Pollution
  • Waste

These things, when properly regulated and assessed, come together to make projects all around the world more environmentally sustainable for everyone that uses them.

In the 21st century, these different aspects can affect the way we live our lives, even if it’s just that the electricity bill has slightly gone up. Environmental sustainability is becoming more important than ever, and it is vital to ensure that we maintain this high level of sustainability as a society, if we want to continue to live on this planet for years to come. By making sure we make the processes that we use are eco-friendly, then we will gradually make the world a better place.

Axess2 are specialist suppliers and installers of high-quality elevator solutions. As elevator experts, they deliver an array of systems for a range of access needs across the retail, commercial and domestic sectors.