Elevatoring Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mile-High Building

James W Fortune

Friday 1st May 1992

Since its inception in 1956, the 528-story, 5280 foot high (1600 m) ‘Illinois’ Office Tower, that was to be constructed on the lake front in Chicago, Illinois, USA, has inspired much debate, controversy and delight among Elevator Consultants as to the best method for providing elevator service in the project. As originally envisioned, the building was to be served by 76 quintuple (5) deck, atomic-powered, rack and pinion, 5000 FPM elevators. This paper will explore the feasibility of elevatoring such a building, based upon the original designs and today’s technology. We will then look at some practical lift schemes for handling the 18,462,000 sq. ft. (1,715,000 sq. m.), 130,000 (1956 estimate) occupant population. The paper will explore the application of conventional sky lobbies, top-down sky lobbies, car-car counterbalance and double-deck express lifts. The physiological problems associated with lift speeds in excess of 2000 FP and rises in excess of 1000’ and the impact of rapid atmospheric changes will also be explored. Finally, we will review some of the future changes that need to be developed in lift designs, car loading schemes, and propulsion methods in order to make a 150-story plus building a reality.

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