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Vertical transportation design

Considered systems for lifts or elevators are key to the safety, productivity and experience of building users.

From high-rise offices to busy hospitals and transport hubs such as Beijing Capital International Airport, well-designed vertical transportation helps create buildings that are attractive, successful and safe.

Arup is a world leader in the design of lift systems for all types of buildings. We guide clients in the best choice of new systems. We also review existing systems and devise retrofit strategies.

Supporting creativity

We work with architects to shape vertical transportation concepts that are in sympathy with a building’s design, operationally efficient and cost-effective. Architects often turn to Arup because of our versatility.

Our 20 scenic lifts for Leadenhall, London, will all be visible within the building’s external steel frame. In contrast, we made minimal visual impact to maintain the open, spacious feel of Aldar’s Abu Dhabi headquarters with intelligent lift systems that ease traffic while using space sparingly.

Improving performance

The best lift systems can help transform a building’s functionality, sustainability and occupant wellbeing.

In hospitals, vertical transportation plays a critical role in healthcare outcomes. Guy’s Hospital’s new cancer treatment centre in London is envisioned as a highly sustainable facility that provides an open, welcoming environment for patients and staff. Our lift consultants are key to helping realise the centre’s arrangement into ‘villages’, which are designed to minimise travel between floors.

In tall buildings such as Guangzhou International Finance Center, China, lift design affects profitability. As lift configuration influences the size of a tower’s core, a good design can maximise usable floor space.

Arup helps clients find optimal solutions for their needs – from sky lobbies and stacked configurations to high-speed and double-deck systems. We give clients the best range of options by drawing on our international experience, advanced analytical techniques and knowledge of specialised systems – including Thyssen twin lifts, for which Arup is one of few firms able to specify or consult.

Solutions beyond standard

We help clients rethink standard solutions to match their challenges, from pedestrian flow to evacuation.

Our elevator design for Second Avenue Subway, the first new subway in New York in 80 years, supports the line’s overall aim to relieve overcrowding and improve connectivity across the subway network.

Arup can offer integrated logistics and lift consultancy, as for the Kazan Media Centre, for which we designed fast and reliable routing for broadcasting equipment, from truck to studio.

We work with Arup’s fire engineers to help developers and owners meet evolving challenges in evacuation, and also help shape guidance for the vertical transportation industry and regulators worldwide.

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  • Julian Olley

    Julian Olley

    Your best solution to date?

    Guangzhou West Tower is a good example of the work we are currently designing.

    Why is it significant?

    As one of the world's tallest buildings, it had very challenging criteria to be met. These could only be solved by close collaboration of the architects and engineers in England, Hong Kong and China. All of us who were involved with the project learned a great deal from each other, and this has proved invaluable on subsequent projects.

    Your particular skill?

    Design of lift systems for tall and very tall buildings, especially the integration of the system, lobby circulation and security systems with the architecture.


    Working with architects on novel buildings, particularly where there is no design precedence.

    Why Arup?

    Working with my colleagues from other Arup offices allows us to operate internationally, but with key local knowledge.

    Anything else?

    I am very happy to talk to groups of design professionals or students on the challenges that designing lifts for tall buildings present.

  • Global Vertical Transportation Design Leader

Explore our work

Guangzhou International Finance Center©Zhou Ruogu Architecture Photography

Project: Guangzhou International Finance Center

The diagrid structural form vastly reduces the amount of steel needed in this super skyscraper.

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Alfred Hospital ICU. Image credit Rhiannon Slatter Photography.

Project: Alfred Hospital Intensive Care Unit

A world-class, exemplar healthcare facility.

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Ekat City, rendering of the city at night. Credit Valode et Pistre.

Project: Ekat City

800,000m² of commercial, office, hotel and entertainment space.

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Kazan Media Centre. Credit SPEECH architects.

Project: Kazan Media Centre

Television and radio complex with stunning media façade design.

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