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Elevator Mathematics


Everyday, people wait patiently for an elevator to pick them up and bring them to the floor they need to go to. Some people frustratingly hit the elevator button repeatedly in hopes that it will speed up the elevator. Then, when they get on the elevator, they do the same thing to the door close button to try and quicken the process. In a fast paced world, people try to gain seconds anywhere they can, and Theresa Christy is doing anything she can to help people shave off seconds off their elevator time.

Theresa Christy has spent a quarter century developing systems that make elevators run as perfectly as possible. She is a mathematician who has been working for Otis Elevator Company and has dedicated her life to making using the elevator quicker and easier.

Ms. Christy says that time is the most important factor when working with elevators. She believes that 20 seconds is the most amount of time peoplElevatorse will wait for an elevator before they get impatient. That’s a tall order when some of the building projects she works on can be 50 plus floors high. She once worked on the 1,483 foot high Petronas Towers in Malaysia, which was the world’s tallest building at the time. She also was asked to help get more people to the observation deck of the Empire State Building during its $550 million upgrade. While Ms. Christy said you would not be able to get more people in each car, she did get them to the observation deck faster. She was able to increase the elevator’s speed by 20 percent, allowing the elevator car to move 80 floors in around 48 seconds.

A common misconception Ms. Christy wanted to put to rest was that the door close buttons on elevators do not work. Sometimes the button works, and sometimes it doesn’t, it all depends on the preference of the building’s owner.

Every building is different, and Ms. Christy must optimize the elevators for each building’s specific needs. For instance, at a hotel in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, she was brought in to make sure the elevators could clear the building fast enough to get the guests out five times a day for prayer. How many people you can fit into an elevator varies by geographic location. Americans, on average, weigh 22 pounds more than an Asian person, meaning less people will fit into an elevator. If you add in the cultural differences like how Westerners need their personal space so fewer people will enter and elevator, while the Asian culture does not mind cramming into an elevator.

What Ms. Christy does daily is write strings of codes that will make elevators more efficient. She uses scenarios, such as: A passenger on the 6th floor wants to descend. The closest car is on the 7th floor, but already has three riders and made two stops. The best choice for the 6th floor person is for the car to stop and pick them up; however, that is not beneficial for the riders on the car already. So Ms. Christy uses math to figure out the best solutions for everyone. In a building with six elevators and 10 possible riders, there are over 60 million possible combinations, so Ms. Christy stays extremely busy.

Elevator technology is always getting more complex. Soon you will be using a keypad to tell the elevator’s computer what floor you wish to go to before you even get on. This will help the elevator be more efficient and reduce wait and ride times.


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