The elevator market and the ecological challenge
One of the greatest challenges we face today is global warming and climate change. How should the elevator market approach the environmental challenge?
There are 17 Sustainable development goals (1) set by the UN and in this article the focus will be on what the elevator industry can do with regards to the no 13: climate action.
The researchers are very clear, we need to act on the climate change and stop the heating of our planet. To keep the global temperature below an increase of 2°C is an audacious goal, and absolutely vital for the human survival.
Minimize the ecological footprint
In the European Union we are using a lot more energy and material than most other parts of the world (2). One concept that needs to be discussed is how we can minimize that footprint.
From an economic perspective the methodology coming from the automotive industry called LEAN (using as little resources as possible) improves the bottom line for all companies. The concept of circular economy where we need to think through the chain from cradle to grave is of utmost importance.
Actors handling elevators can be divided into real estate owner, elevator producer, service/maintenance companies and component supplier. All actors can take their responsibility in this matter.
As efficient as possible
A real estate owner can focus on two things. When building a new house, keeping in mind that research shows that building the house in the first place has the same climate impact as heating it for the coming 50 years (3).
When buying and owning an elevator ensure that it is as efficient as possible based on the material used as well as the consumption during the life time.
The elevator producer should ensure that the Ecodesign directive (4), taking into account durability, repairability, upgradability, remanufacturing, disassembling, reusing and recycling when constructing an elevator. An elevator made in the beginning of last century is still working (lacking many safety components etc) while a modern elevator is expected to hold for 10-20 years at most.
Working with pro-active maintenance
New elevators are also, often, very complex and with a design only working with that manufacturer, forcing the owner to change the whole elevator if they want to replace it. One way where the industry could improve is to design new elevators with a more modular approach where different parts can be exchanged as that specific module comes to an end of life.
The service / maintenance companies can contribute to the environment by ensuring that they work with pro-active maintenance that minimizes the transportation cost for call-outs on stand-stills and ensuring that recycling is done in the most efficient way.
Maintenance will also prolong the lifetime of the elevator before it needs to be modernized as a whole. It is also possible to use refurbished / repaired components (primarily electronic ones) to extend the lifecycle of the elevator if no new products are available.
Lower the environmental effect
For component supplier an efficient material handling in terms of transportation both inbound as well as outbound will lower the environmental effect. As a supplier to the market there is also the possibility to develop new and better solutions for existing lifts where the old producer might have left the market or when technology brings out new possibilities to improve the functionality of the elevator.
One example can be old elevator locks where the old product is not produced anymore and where adaptation plates can make the installation of a modern lock fast and at the same time improve the function of the doors. If a supplier can extend the product life cycle of a complete lift that company will decrease the need for new material.
Requiring environmental standard
Another way a reseller can help to reduce the environmental impact is to ensure a system for deposit so old material can be refurbished instead of recycled. Finally the supplier must enforce that the factories are working in the best environmental way that is possible, e.g. by requiring environmental standard like ISO 14001.
It is as they say: "nobody can do it all, but everybody can do something". This is really a common effort where everybody must do what they can to contribute to a better environment!
Daniel Nyman is CEO at Hissmekano
(1): United Nations: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/
(2). EDGAR 4.3 (JRC/PBL, 2015) (1970-2012; notably IEA 2014 and NBS 2015); EDGAR 4.3FT2014 (2013-2014): BP 2015; GGFR 2015; USGS 2015; WSA 2015
(3): Birgitta Govén, Svenska byggindustrier, 2018-04-16
(4): The Ecodesigndirective (2009/125/EC)