Why the World’s Fastest Elevator Exists

This video was made possible by CuriosityStream. Watch unlimited documentaries for free for
a month by signing up at the link in the description. Welcome to the bottom of the barrel. Today we’re talking about elevators. This is the Shanghai tower—the second tallest
building in the world behind the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Now, building tall buildings is a bit of a…
uhh… rooster measuring contest and nowhere likes flaunting their flightless birds more
than China and the UAE. The Shanghai Tower, which cost $2.5 billion
to build, stretches to over 2,000 feet or 600 meters and has 127 stories. As a point of comparison, if you put eight
747’s on top of each other, the Shanghai Tower would still be taller mostly because,
according to my engineering degree, that’s not a structurally sound building. Now, part of the difficulty in having buildings
this tall is that people, who mostly come from the ground, need to get to the top of
the building quickly. If people can’t get to the top of the building
easily and quickly, they won’t want to buy property in the building, which I’m told
is a pretty important aspect to profitability. Therefore, for super-tall buildings such as
this, a ton of money and time is put into designing, as they pretentiously call it,
their vertical transportation system. For the Shanghai Tower, this was so important
that its designers hired a company, the Edgett Williams Consulting Group, to design their
system. To be clear, these guys weren’t designing
the elevators themselves, they bought those from other companies, they were designing
the system of elevators. Now, you might think that you could just have
a bunch of very long elevators like any other building but if you think that, you’d be
wrong and you should feel bad. Here’s why. Let’s say there’s an eleven story building
where there’s a lobby, and then ten floors which each have one resident. Now, ten people need to travel from the lobby
to first floor because everybody lives above the lobby, but then from the first to second
floor, only nine people need to travel because only nine people live above the first floor,
only eight people live above the second floor, etc, etc, etc, and only one person lives above
the ninth. The problem, though, is that with a traditional
elevator system, you have to build the elevator, which goes up the whole height of the building,
to have exactly enough capacity to transport exactly as many people travel between the
lobby and the first floor even though, when that elevator gets to the top, it only needs
enough capacity to handle one person. For shorter buildings, it’s just simpler
to have one elevator system running to each floor. While it’s less efficient from a space perspective,
it saves a lot of time. For taller buildings, though, the problem
is that a lot of people fit in the building and therefore you need a lot of capacity. With each additional floor in the building,
you need more elevator capacity and therefore more elevators which generally need one shaft
each and so, by building an additional floor, you actually remove overall usable floor space
from the building based off the space the additional elevator shaft takes up on all
the floors. Based off this principle, there’s a theoretical
limit to how tall traditionally shaped skyscrapers can be since, at certain heights and capacities,
the space needed for the elevators would be greater than the horizontal space of the tower
itself. As alpha as an all elevator building sounds,
it’s, again, not good for profitability… unless it was like, an amusement park for
all those elevator enthusiast YouTubers. For all these reasons, most super-tall buildings
use a different method of elevators. Taking the elevator in these buildings is
almost like taking the subway which is fair considering that the Burj Khalifa is taller
than the shortest subway line in New York, the 42nd Street Shuttle, is long. Unlike the New York Subway, though, the elevators
aren’t whizz flavored. How it works in the case of the Shanghai Tower,
for example, is that there are five sky lobbies, as they’re called, spread out throughout
the tower. From the ground lobby, one set of elevators
will go directly to the first, then one set directly to the second, one to the third,
to the forth, and fifth. From there, people will transfer onto a local
elevator that can take them to the exact floor they want between the two sky-lobbies. That way, there are only a few elevators at
the top where not many are needed thereby saving space and you can also have two elevators
in one shaft—the express one and the local one. Now, you might wonder, why not just have sets
of elevators that travel direct from the ground floor up to each sky-lobby and then switch
to local after that. Well, it’s because not all elevators are
created equal. The express elevators are double-decker meaning,
in the same shaft, they have double the capacity and they’re super-fast. The local elevators, on the other hand, are
just fairly normal elevators. But now for the titular question. Like any good super-tall building, the Shanghai
tower has an observation deck so you can pay to look down on the plebs. In fact, this is the highest observation deck
in the world but to get to it, you wouldn’t want all the tourists to have to deal with
sky-lobbies and local elevators and all that confusion because tourists are known for their
limited intellectual ability. Therefore, there are three elevators going
directly from the ground floor all the way to the 121st floor—a distance of 1,898 feet
or 579 meters. That’s record number one—its the furthest
traveling single elevator in the world. Record number two is that this is the fastest
elevator in the world—it gets people from the ground to the 121st floor in only 55 seconds. That’s a speed of 40 miles or 65 kilometers
per hour. On the way down, though, the elevator only
goes a measly 22 miles or 36 kilometers per hour. The reason? Any faster, and it would be uncomfortable
as people couldn’t equalize their ears fast enough. Of course, the reason these are so fast, in
addition to just the prestige of having the record, is to save room. You can either have one elevator that makes
the trip in 55 seconds or two that make it in 110. Now that you’ve learned absolutely everything
there ever is to know about the second tallest building in the world, you probably want to
learn more about the tallest building—the Burj Khalifa. Luckily, you can do so for free by watching
this great documentary on Curiosity Stream. This documentary gives a unique glimpse into
the lives of those that live and work in this vertical city. Curiosity Stream, meanwhile, is, of course,
that great website where you can watch any of more than 2,400 documentaries for free
on pretty much any device you want. Better yet, by going to https://curiositystream.com/hai
and using the code, “hai,” you can watch for free for a month.

Norman Bunn


  1. I mean honestly, elevators? You all need to get better at topic suggestions or we're going to have to get back to talking about bricks. Submit your ideas here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdMAoo9CfGxr5OvZdz3qCCEkeQSVJpak3YYTHQFLRwXOyTOXA/viewform?usp=sf_link

    If we use your suggestion, we'll send you an HAI t-shirt. This is all very legal and very cool.

  2. 2:05 What if the person on the 10:th floor has a party with 10 persons?

  3. Why does the world’s fastest elevator exist? Bc one of them has to be the fastest

  4. So the real answer to the question why the worlds fastest elevator exists is, elevators exist, therefore it follows that one of them
    Will be the fastest, this the fastest elevator exists

  5. That's a whole lot of money.
    That's a shame.
    *clicks C4 detonator*

  6. My University had the fastest elevator, but then they slowed it down because it was making people sick :/

  7. I was very lucky to go up to the observation deck in this tower, it's honestly amazing and if you ever find yourself in Shanghai, you've gotta check out the tower as well as the science museum in Shanghai.

  8. Umm well the title is “the fastest elevator exists”

    But there is always a fastest

  9. Bar room trivia;
    Q; What mode of transportation moves the most people?
    A; Elevators

  10. Logically the worlds fastest elevator exists because not all elevators go the same speed.

  11. "why does the worlds fastest elevator exist?"
    Because elevators exist.

    "Why do elevators exist?"
    Because humans built them

    "Why do humans exist"
    Because they're animals

    "Why do animals exist"
    Because they live on earth

    "Why does earth exist"
    Because it formed from debre when the sun was forming

    "Why does the sun exist"
    I just told you, it formed shut the fuck up.

  12. “Why the World’s Fastest Elevator Exists”

    Well, if there’s at least one elevator, then one of them has to be the fastest one…

  13. Why not make the elevators go up and to come down people use stairs so that elevators can go down super fast and carry more people up. If people want to go down faster there will be a pole in the middle of the stairs and you can slide down at your own speed

  14. What impresses me the most is how the concrete at the bottom can hold so much weight

  15. The worlds fastest elevator exists because elevators exist. If there are elevators, one of them is bound to be the fastest

  16. Is my geography wrong or the Guinness world record made a mistake saying Shanghai is in Japan

  17. Shanghai Tower didn’t even feature the worlds fastest lift when you uploaded this video. You are publishing misleading information.


  18. At 4:58 where we see Guinness World Records, it is given that Shanghai is in Japan. This probably needs to be corrected 🙂

  19. Infinite floored hotel Plus 1. that's a fun theory and kind of makes sense here

  20. Well of course it fucking exist… The question is which one is it. Shit like this really grinds my gears

  21. Video about elevators: Hai /Wendover P works in proverbial airplane reference with 747s as a unit of measure for building height.

  22. it is actually insane how fast that elevator goes up, if you to somehow tripped out the window from the top floor it would take longer for you to get to the bottom than the people on the bottom to get to the top

  23. Im confused… The fastest elevator is the one in Taipei 101, no?
    Or is there more than one first place?

  24. I was just getting ready to tell you I learned everything about not being able to use one big elevator from SimTower when the reference popped up, hahah.

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