The world of architecture is always seeking to do more when it comes to pushing the limits of building height. Look at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which currently stands at 2,722 feet tall, making it the largest skyscraper in the world. A memorable, if terrifying, scene in the recent film Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, found actor Tom Cruise hanging from the side of this building whilst attempting to gain access to an area not accessible by elevators. How would you feel, hanging off the edge of this building?
Luckily, you won’t have to, even though an article from the BBC World Service says that elevator technology is making it difficult for engineers to design and build taller and taller skyscrapers. Getting higher than the Burj Khalifa would be very difficult with existing technology:
“…achieving a building much taller could take a while longer, because although the technology to build the frame may exist, its height will ultimately depends on something else: the height to which its elevators can go.”
The main caveat to designing such a building isn’t the elevator cabin itself, but the mechanisms that run the elevator. The article says these things (pulleys, counterweights, cables, etc.) are massive and weigh too much for installation in anything much taller than Dubai’s architectural wonder. However, a company from Finland is currently working on an elevator installation that works on a completely untraditional system:
“ [The company is] testing new technology — including double-decker elevators. But the ultimate idea is an elevator that does away with all the heavy equipment, instead utilizing electro-magnets to move up and down the shaft.”
If this system ends up working out, the article says it would be one of the biggest steps forwards in elevator technology, making it possible for us to put buildings even higher into the sky.