New technology means big improvements to passenger lift destination control systems, and these improvements can help speed up travel times, improve efficiency and provide benefit for some people with disabilities.
Destination control systems (DCS) – or destination-oriented lift systems – are not a new concept. In fact, they have been around for decades, but their use is now increasing as technology advances. This technology is actually an Australian invention first developed in Sydney in 1961 and patented by Leo Port MBE, who would later become the Lord Mayor of Sydney from 1978 until his death three years later.
When a person arrives in a building with a DCS, they enter their desired destination level into an input panel or keypad in the lift landing area. They are then directed to a lift based on availability, efficiency of the system and grouping of people traveling to the same level. In more modern systems, an electronic swipe card reader can also record desired destination information for more convenience and ease of use.
The DCS differs from the conventional lifts we seen and used for many years. The lift cars within a DCS have no buttons for each level. The buttons will usually be limited to an emergency call button, and buttons to open and close doors. When entering a lift car, it already knows the level you are traveling to and will automatically move to that level, arrive, and announce your arrival without the need to touch any buttons within the lift car.
This type of design is, therefore, a departure from the lift disability access requirements outlined in Australian building and disability access standards and must be assessed as a performance-based solution to meet the building code performance requirements.
There are, however, clear benefits when using a DCS:
- There is a higher rate of people movement or ‘handling capacity,’ which results in a reduced number of lift cars in larger buildings.
- According to Dr. Richard D Peters, from the Peters Research Ltd, in his 2006 paper titled ‘Understanding the Benefits and Limitations of Destination Control’, “an overloaded conventional system can often be brought out of saturation by installing destination control as we have more handling capacity available.”
- Travel times can be reduced as you will not be entering a packed lift with people creating more stops.
- Many systems have accessibility features, that can:
- provide audible messages and directions from the input screen or keypad
- increase the time permitted to move to the allocated lift car for those with mobility impairments or and those with a vision impairment who might be unfamiliar with their surroundings
- hold the doors open longer to provide more time to enter the lift car, or
- ensure that sufficient floor space is maintained for people using mobility devices such as wheelchairs, assistants or carers, or those with assistance animals.
In closing, DCS are very much accepted overseas, including in the US ADA Standards for Accessible Design and in European access standards. So it would reasonable to consider their use in Australia too if we can get the accessible features correct.