Apparently, Star Trek had it right. Those familiar with the seminal sci-fi series will find the thyssenkrupp MULTI system eerily familiar. Like the ubiquitous turbolifts of the interstellar television show, MULTI is a rope-less, sideways-moving elevator system. Thankfully, we don’t have to wait for the 22nd century to see them in action, because thyssenkrupp has a working prototype in the German countryside.
The nearly completed thyssenkrupp test tower in Rottweil, Germany, stands 800 feet above a rolling green landscape. Essentially a complex elevator core, the test tower will have a full working version of MULTI. At the same time thyssenkrupp puts the final touches on its testing facility, MULTI already has its first client. OVG Real Estate’s East Side Tower in Berlin will be the first to deploy the system.
Unlike nearly all elevators, MULTI functions on a system of rails rather than ropes or cables. This has a distinct number of advantages, especially when building supertalls. The simple weight and length of the cables is prohibitive, and they limit the directionality of the elevator car. In general, only one car is able to be in each shaft at a time—a problem for buildings with tens of thousands of people moving up and down every day. MULTI, on the other hand, circumvents many of these obstacles. With no cables, multiple cars can move in a single shaft. The track system can be used to move cars up and down, as well as side to side. Working in loops, MULTI has the potential to be faster, and more efficient, both spatially and environmentally.
Notably, while addressing many of the common issues facing current elevator technology, MULTI has one more advantage: There is no limit to the height or length of the system. While elevators are often cited as the invention that permitted the rise of skyscrapers, today supertall buildings are reaching the limits of that technology.
The real question now, though, is: How are the buttons going to work on an elevator that can go in so many directions?