How the Invention of Elevators Transformed the Design of Commercial Buildings

Elevators have a long and varied history, starting off with the most primitive of designs occurring back in 236 BC when Greek mathematician Archimedes invented the very first one. Later, King Louis XV of France installed a one-story elevator in his palace that he called a “flying chair” – and he operated it just by tugging on a rope. When we think of modern life, it’s hard to imagine elevators not being a part of our current landscape – especially when it comes to commercial buildings.

Imagine living in a high rise or working in a skyscraper in a big city without the use of elevators. Things would move at a much slower pace and people would be worn out from climbing stairs before they even got to work! It wasn’t till the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s that elevator technology advanced to accommodate the growing demands of business. Their first widespread use was within mines, to help transport people and materials down to the coal mines.

Of course, the earliest elevators weren’t without their safety risks. Safety brakes were invented soon after to prevent elevator cars from dropping suddenly, even in the event the cable was cut or damaged. Elisha Otis was the inventor of the safety brake that transformed elevators from death traps into viable transportation, according to PBS. He was also the founder of what is now known to be the biggest and most successful elevator company on the planet. Not only did this make human transportation easier and safer, it made the transportation of freight in factories more efficient.

The safer and more reliable elevators were, the more they were incorporated into multiple-story structures. Before this, builders were limited to construction buildings that only contained a few stories at best so that people could easily climb the stairs. Otis Tufts is credited for inventing the more modern form of elevators we see today, designed for the conveyance of people between various levels of hotels, public buildings and homes. Unlike the earlier models, this one was enclosed with opening and closing doors that protected occupants from surrounding hazards. Basically it was the first passenger elevator.

With the advent of the elevator, and specifically safety features like the brakes, it became possible to construct taller and taller buildings to accommodate the growth of companies in big cities. As buildings became taller, apartment buildings grew to accommodate more residents, and commercial properties could accommodate more employees and accomplish more tasks.

Elevator designs and safety features have gone through several iterations as the years have gone by but the bottom line is that commercial buildings have been forever influenced from this most basic of design principles. The elevator has spurred more efficient employee communication and work practices to keep up with the demands of life on the go.

Get in touch with Mowrey Elevator, established in 1976, as your leader in the design, manufacture, and installation of more than 15,000 elevators for all types of commercial buildings and private residences.