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AIGA Elevator

An elevator symbol by AIGA.


An elevator

S3300AP MRL lift

An elevator installed by Schindler.

Elevator (or lift) is a vertical transport vehicle that efficiently moves people or goods between floors of a building. They are generally powered by electric motors that either drive traction cables and counterweight systems, or pump hydraulic fluid to raise a cylindrical piston.


Primitive elevators dates back to ancient Rome, where Archimedes designed one supported by hemp ropes and powered by animals.  By the 1800s, the technology had not greatly improved and the elevators that existed were notoriously dangerous.  Due to the high risk, these elevators were reserved almost solely for moving objects, not people.

Medieval records contain numerous drawings of hoists lifting men and supplies to isolated locations. Among the most famous is the hoist at the monastery of St. Barlaam in Greece. The monastery stood on a pinnacle approximately 61 meters (200 ft) above the ground. Its hoist, which employed a basket or cargo net, was the only means up or down. At an abbey on the French seacoast, a hoist was installed in 1203 that used a large tread wheel. A donkey supplied the lifting power. The load was raised by a rope wound on a large drum. Manpower supplied the lifting force in many early devices. By the 18th century, machine power was being applied to the development of the elevator.

In 1743, a counterweighted personal elevator was commissioned by Louis XV in France for his personal chambers in Versailles. By 1833, a system using reciprocating rods raised and lowered miners in Germany’s Harz Mountains. A belt-driven elevator called the “teagle” was installed in an English factory in 1835. The first hydraulic industrial elevator powered by water pressure appeared in 1846. As machinery and engineering improved, other powered lifting devices quickly followed.

First elevator invention by Otis


Otis demonstrates his safety elevator at the 1853 World's Fair.

On 1853, an inventor named Elisha Otis had designed a safety system that would catch a falling lift should its main support fail.  He proudly demonstrated this breakthrough at the 1853 World’s Fair in New York’s Crystal Palace.  Otis stood on the elevated platform high above the crowd then directed a burly assistant to sever the support cable with an axe. The platform dropped a few inches but the safety system quickly stopped the descent.

A few years later when a state-of-the-art building was constructed to house the E.V. Haughwout chinaware emporium, the architects decided to include the very first Otis passenger elevator at a cost of $300. That same elevator is still in working condition.

The first successful passenger elevator was installed on this day at 488 Broadway in New York City on March 23, 1857.

In 1880, Werner von Siemens invented the first electric elevator.

Elevator drive systems


Main article: Traction elevators

M.R.L. traction

Main article: Machine Room Less Elevator


Main article: Hydraulic elevators

Elevator control

Main article: Elevator control system

As passengers step on and off an elevator, the load constantly changes, making it difficult to keep the platform level with the floor. Otis solved this problem as far back as 1915 with a self-leveling device called Microdrive. First developed for lifts in naval vessels, Otis introduced it as a safety device in passenger elevators. It also saved time and improved the ride quality for passengers as the leveling operation was automatic. Older elevators before 1980s uses mechanical selectors that uses analog controls and many moving parts to determine the car’s position, requiring constant and often costly maintenance.

Judging when to slow the cab was easy enough for an operator when speeds were between 91–121 meters (300–400 ft) per minute. But when speeds increased to over 213 meters (700 ft) per minute, this became too difficult. The logical step was to automate the control system.

In 1924, Otis installed its first Signal Control System in the new Standard Oil Building in New York City. The system automatically controlled acceleration, speed between floors and deceleration as the car approached the landing. In 1937, the Peak Period Control was introduced to automatically schedule elevator service during high-demand periods. It helped reduce the waiting time on any given floor by coordinating the movement of the building’s elevators.

Elevator algorithm

Main article: Elevator algorithm

Types of elevators

Main article: Types of elevators

Elevators have many types for passengers and freight.

Elevator special modes

Elevator equipments

External Links


Drive systems: Traction • Hydraulic

Types of elevators: Double DeckDumbwaiterFireman'sFreightIncline • PassengerResidentialWheelchair lift

Concept: Destination dispatchElevator algorithm • Elevator control systemElevator machine room • Elevator maintenanceElevator major alterationsElevator modernizationMachine room less elevator

Elevator systems, controllers and equipments: Elevator fixtures • Elevator keys • Elevator special modesElevator doorsDoor camDoor interlocks (Interlock wiring communication system) • Door restrictorElevator Inspection CertificateEmergency stop buttonFloor designatorsGate switch • Old Deadman controls • Overspeed governorMotor-generator set & Silicon-controlled rectifier (for DC-powered elevators) • Insulated-gate bipolar transistor (for AC-VVVF-powered elevators) • Regenerative converter (for AC-VVVF-powered elevators)

See also: List of elevator fixtures guide • List of elevator and escalator companies • Elevator door sill guide (Generic elevator component door sill guide) • Floor numbering (Unlucky floor numbers) • Elevator incidents and accidents

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