Helping architects to define an elevator for a 100 floor residential building. The exercise combines both physical and psychological experiences to ensure the best service to all its users.

What insights have been provided to me?

  • The constraint: only one room for one elevator shaft which size is adjustable.

  • The building will be configured in 100 floors and 80 apartments per floor.

  • Every apartment is inhabited by at least one person.

  • We can place the elevator wherever we want and change the disposition of the apartments.

  • Because of the given data I can assume that our main target are residents; as well as people associated with this typology of building: guests, workers, couriers, cleaning service…

High level goals

The elevator shaft can’t have just one lift

We have to be aware that the building will be inhabited by minimum 8000 people (min. 1 person per apartment x 80 apartments per floor x 100 floors). However, the realistic number will be much bigger since the apartments will be occupied by couples, families etc. With this total amount of residents we need to ensure the availability of vertical communication for all. This lead us to the obvious point: the elevator shaft can’t have just one lift.

Lenght reduction of the corridors and easy access to the flats

Since the layout of apartments is adjustable we should provide a democratic solution, possible reduction in length of the corridors and easy access to the flats. It leads us to the central core typology of the building.

We must provide an intuitive inclusive solution

With this number of inhabitants, statistically there will be wide variety of specific personal needs related to the range of age, familiarity with technology, disabilities, the length of stay at the facility. We must provide an intuitive, inclusive solution.

Since it is a residential building, I have clarified that the elevators will be operated by two potential user groups with similar motivations but different needs:


Residents (permanent users) who will use the lift everyday at least twice; leaving to work, school or other daily responsibilities and coming back to their apartments.


The main need of the residents is to get to their apartments as fast as possible and, since they will use the elevator everyday, we must provide a solution which facilitates the smooth and efficient transportation. The comfort of the use should keep their concentration on the activity they were engaged in before entering the elevator.

People associated

People associated (temporary users) like guests visiting residents, couriers delivering shipments, the cleaning service etc.


People associated need to get to a specific floor to provide their service or to deliver ‘’to door’’ shipments. As they are temporary users, they won’t be familiar with the design of the elevator system. That’s why it is important to come up with an intuitive solution for this group of people.

Because of the typology of the building and enormous number of residents, we can expect the ‘’peak demand’’, when most of the users will take the elevator, in the morning and afternoon (especially in weekdays).

Primary outcomes

As the building dimensions are extraordinary and the number of potential users is huge, we need to find the way to optimize the vertical communication of the inhabitants and related groups to be the most efficient possible.

Efficiency of the vertical transportation depends on the number of users per one elevator and the distance it has to spend

It is necessary to divide min. 8k users in groups and subgroups as well as 100 floors into ‘’segments’’ to ensure fast and comfortable service.

The main way for the users to reach their apartments is by using the elevator

That’s why we need to provide the necessary comfort to make that journey as fast and enjoyable as possible. To do so, we must calculate the number and size of the lifts as well as consider all aspects of accessibility.

Implementation of several lifts is necessary

As the size of the elevator shaft is adjustable, the implementation of several lifts is possible and actually necessary to provide transport to a maximum number of users at the same time.

The distance from the elevator to the apartments should be as short as possible

If there are 80 apartments per floor the elevator must be placed in a democratic way providing the similar distance to everyone.

We have to make sure the users will always easily understand how the lift works

Technology must provides an effective solutions to prevent misunderstandings while using the lift. Because of the unconventional conditions the idea can be different from what users are familiar with. We have to make sure they will always easily understand how the lift works.

Initial solutions

Typology of the building

Our client allows us to place the elevator shaft wherever it suits our needs and responds to the goals mentioned above. The only constraint is that we can provide just one shaft and its size is adjustable. What is more, we are allowed to play with apartments layout to answer as best as possible to the design challenge.

In the field of architecture, I investigated the topic of possible typologies of high rise residential buildings. I analysed which option allows us to place the shaft in a strategic point following client’s indications.

The grouped blocks typology allows us to place the vertical communication as a middle point and converge the segments. This allows to have the shaft as a central point from which all corridors spread in the same way.

In the rough sketch, the configuration of the 80 apartments per floor could be easily divided in 20 apartments per block, 10 in every side of the corridor. Dividing the apartments in that way, we make sure that the distance from the lift will be similar for everyone and it won’t be extremely long.

Due to the huge dimensions of the building, I wanted to represent in the following images how the construction proposal would look like next to a regular ten-floor building.

The lift system

Nowadays, the standard speed of a good elevator is 1 m/s. We need to calculate how fast, in this conditions, the elevator arrive from the ground floor to the last floor. To get this data we need to execute a couple of calculations. Assuming the floor height is 3,2 m, multiplying this number with 100 floors, we figure the height of the building can be around 320 m.

So, in the best conditions, if the elevator goes directly to the last floor without stopping by its way in any floor, it will take 320 seconds to arrive, which is 5,33(3) minutes.

Residents will spend at least 10 minutes a day using the elevators to get to their apartments. Annually, they will spend more than 60 hours. Is it clear that a direct travel from the 0 floor to the 100 floor takes too much time (in the best conditions).

That’s why we need to optimize the time of transportation dividing 100 floors into ‘’segments’’ to ensure fast and comfortable service.

Dividing the elevator system in 25 floor groups (horizontal division) will be much faster, unlike the splitting the elevators in the separate full building height communications (eg. 4 segments).

Following this thinking, there will be 4 different elevator groups. Each one will have an access in the ground floor but will lead to different range of floor. The first one will stop until 25th floor. The second one will guide to the floors from 26 to 50. The next one from 51 to 75 and the last one from 76 to 100. By dividing the travel distance in 4 different segments, we reduce possible number of the stops which provide a faster and more comfortable service.

How many elevators will be efficient?

With simple maths, if there will be minimum 1 inhabitant per apartment and we will have 80 apartments per floor, with 25 floor segment we’ve got min 2000 users. Is it clear that 4 elevators is not enough to transport this amount of people.

As the shaft size is adjustable, we are able to make it big enough to implement X elevators in a group.

To know the exact number of elevators groups we have to provide following data:

Primary considerations

•  Number of residents
•  Indicative traffic flow peak
•  Number of elevators per group
•  Nominal elevator load capacity
•  Nominal elevator speed

Secondary considerations

•  Elevator acceleration
•  Door times (opening/closing, door type, dimensions, etc)
•  Entry and exit times (dependent on type of user, free passage way and car occupancy)

How digital can help to build an elevator experience?

Focusing on the human senses and according to UCD (user centered design) theories, in the following points, I will describe how technology and digital can construct an experience:


As the first Usability Heuristic principle of Jakob Nielsen, Usability System Status, the elevator should always informs the user what’s going on.

While using the elevator, this one must always inform the users in which floor they are, if they are going up or down, what is the next stop and how much time it will take to arrive there. Other interesting details may be displayed such as current speed, current direction, current floor, next stop and height. The total number and list of all the floors where the lift will stop should be shown in chronological order. It is important to high light the quick links for the popular floors such as ground floor, parking or rooftop terrace.

Also, when the users are waiting to take the elevator, they should know in what floor the elevator is at the moment and how much time it will take until the elevator will arrive.

The emergency call and the alarm should be always visible in a in a privileged place.


The control panel is the main control console. Is it clear that the control panel has to be tactile. It is not efficient to place physical buttons, since it will take a lot of wall space and lead to misunderstandings.

The emergency call and the alarm buttons must be touchable outside the digital control panel. We must allow the easiest and fastest access to this emergency buttons which provides mental comfort.


Because of the huge number of people using the elevator system and their diversity, we have to consider all kind of disabilities and provide accessibility to all elevator functions.

A voice assistant could help to people with all range of blindness or bad eyesight (older people). By voice interaction, the elevator could understand where the user wants to go.

Also, the speaker build it the control panel should always inform about the status of the lift; the direction of movement, what is the next stop or in a rare cases - system errors. By giving constant feedback to our users, they will feel safe knowing that the transportation is under control.

Project learnings

1. User Experience is everything and everywhere

A UX designer is not only needed to build a digital product. We are needed everywhere and that is what makes my career more exciting.

2. Open mind to work with multidisciplinary teams

Never be afraid to work with other experts you're not used to. I have learned other methods from an architectural point of view that is fully applicable to digital product design.

3. No fear of taking on projects outside your specialty

At first I was afraid to work on a project so different from what I'm used to. Then I really enjoyed working in such a different area. It was worth breaking the monotony.

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