- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 01 Nov 2017
The Science of Lifts
A lift uses physical mechanisms that work together to lift or lower a car to various floors. The key components of a lift system include one or more car, a counterweight, an electric motor, metal cables, and various security systems.
 Conservation of Energy
This principle is one of the most widely known physical laws that is used. The law states that the total energy of a system that doesn’t interact with its surroundings remains constant. It is also referred to in the following statement:
“Energy is neither created nor destroyed; it transforms from one form to another.”
This would be, for example, converting electrical energy to kinetic energy within a motor. This law is particularly important in lift design, as it helps with the understanding of the raising and lowering of a lift car. Lift cars possess gravitational potential energy (GPE), which is the energy that an object possesses depending on how far the object is from Earth.
A lift that is high up has a greater GPE than if it was lower. Gaining this GPE must come from somewhere, and it comes from mechanical or electrical energy from the motor. To lift a car, more force needs to be applied than the car’s mass times by Earth’s acceleration due to gravity.
For example, lifting a 1,000kg car would require approximately 10,000N to lift using a single pulley, which is an immense amount of force.
 The Physics of Counterweights
Counterweights provide a way to make life a lot easier when lifting a car to higher floors. Traditionally, counterweights weigh the same as when a lift is at half capacity. For example, if a car weighed 1,000kg and has a capacity of 1,000kg, the counterweight would weigh 1,500kg.
Because of this extra weight, it means that less force and, therefore, energy is needed to lift the car. For example, if the lift car is 3,000kg and the counterweight is 2,000kg, then 1,000kg is needed to be lifted as opposed to 3,000kg – an energy reduction of 66.7%.
Because of how they are implemented, it also means that the counterweight increases the acceleration that is required to raise the lift and decreases the acceleration that is required to lower the car, all of which helps to lower the amount of energy that is required by the motor.
As well as this, counterweights help to reduce the amount of energy that is used by the motor, which is beneficial in terms of increasing the environmental friendliness of lift systems. The goal is to ensure that the least amount of energy is used, whilst also maintaining the most efficient service possible.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- A brief history of lifts over the years.
- Building engineering physics.
- Considerations When Installing a Residential Lift.
- Home lifts.
- Lifting platform.
- Lift motor room.
- Lift Standards: EN 81-20 and EN 81-50.
- Lifts and Escalators: A Quality Perspective.
- Lifts and Their Special Operating Modes.
- Lifts for buildings.
- Lifts for office buildings.
- Smart elevators.
- The importance of service lifts.
- The world's fastest lifts.
--Nathan Massey 14:38, 11 Jul 2017 (BST)
Featured articles and news
How to get results with building life cycle assessment.
Government publishes a prospectus inviting proposals for new 'garden communities'.
The Morandi motorway bridge in Genoa collapses during rainstorm while undergoing maintenance works.
'Developed design' is a phrase coined by the RIBA for their 2013 Plan of Work. But what does it actually mean?
New green paper published aiming to rebalance the relationship between landlords and residents and tackle stigma.
RIBA calls for a comprehensive ban on combustible materials.
Lump sum contracts can be referred to as ‘fixed price’ contracts, although strictly this is not correct. Find out more here.
Ramboll offer guidance to civil engineers on how to make projects 'off-site ready'.
Government announces its Rough Sleeping Strategy, with further funding for social housing.
An overlooked architect who deserves to be celebrated for his wide range of buildings.
The Home Quality Mark ONE technical manuals for new homes are now available.