An elevated view

Lifts rule our daily lives in the Middle East and there will never be an alternative, says Gary Wright

Last week my employer and the company behind Construction Week, ITP Publishing, marked environmental awareness week by shutting off one of our building’s three elevators and encouraging  400-plus employees  to think about the energy we each use every day… and consider using the stairs.

There were few takers for the stairs but at least employees talked about the environment – mainly while we queued that extra time waiting for the crowded lift to arrive.

As I’ve said in this column before, in Dubai we live in one of the least environmentally friendly cities in the world and I have no problem with that. To abuse a metaphor favoured by my mother, you can’t make an omelette (in this case, Dubai) without breaking a few eggs (carbon emissions for AC).

So, while I commend the sentiments of environment week, I’ll still wait until our cousins in China stop opening a coal-fired power station every other day before I worry too much about switching off the air-conditioning.

I digress. If we are going to live in the clouds, good elevators are vital, We all know that without decent elevators, the mighty Burj Khalifa could not exist. Simple.

I for one welcome KONE’s revelation this week of the new lightweight carbon-fibre cable which will mean a single elevator can now travel 1,000m.

But there are downsides. When I moved into my current home I deliberately sought an apartment as high as possible because I was under the illusion that the views would be spectacular.

In fact the views are disappointing – mainly the windows of other apartments on the 34th floor - and the tedious wait for elevators every day makes me wish I’d sought something closer to ground level. In addition, air conditioning in lifts rarely matches the rest of the building and there is a genuine irritation towards fellow passengers – all decent people - who press the button for floors before yours when you arrive home late (admit it, you all feel the same).

A couple of months ago a power surge caused the Metro to stop working and when I arrived home, there was a slight flutter in the lift lights as I travelled upward. Fearing some electrical failure I got off at the 30th floor and climbed the final eight flights of stairs. When I finally staggered through my front door 10 minutes later I was exhausted and in need of oxygen.

I now have a growing fear of the day when an emergency will mean descending the full 1,200 or so steps to get out of the building.

Would I risk the lift in the event of a fire? Probably, as the option is an almost certain heart attack.

So, I have nothing but the utmost sympathy for those poor folks in Princess Tower at Dubai Marina who found themselves with no lifts at all after a faulty fire hose on the 96th floor went wrong last week.

If I was already on the ground I would have booked into a hotel until it was mended or if I was in my top-floor apartment I wouldn’t have gone out.

I would have just ordered food deliveries… and promised an enormous tip.

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