Prototype system replaces stairs and elevators with human power

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An experimental prototype designed by Rombaout Labs and dubbed "Vertical Walking" uses human power  to allow movement between floors of a building with only ten percent of the effort needed to climb stairs and without the need for any external power(Credit: Rombout Design)

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Humans are said to have evolved from an ancestor that once swung through the trees to get about, free to move through the environment in almost any direction. But today, in our modern high-rise environment, if you simply want to go up or down, it's probably fair to say we've actually devolved. Stairs, elevators, and lifts all take up precious space within buildings, and they're expensive, complicated, or require endless maintenance. Now a new human-powered system prototype dubbed Vertical Walking has been developed that requires just ten percent of the effort needed to climb stairs, but can easily move a person up a vast number of floors.

According to the designers of the Vertical Walking system, the future will see billions more people moving into urban areas where skyrocketing land prices will force apartment buildings to grow even taller. But elevators are power-hungry and take up precious space, and stairs are impractical for buildings more than a few stories high. Yet, with more buildings, less green space, and fewer opportunities to exercise, some form of regular physical movement will be essential. This is where the Vertical Walking system comes in.

Designed by the Rombaut Frieling lab in Eindhoven, Netherlands, Vertical Walking uses a system of upright rails that incorporate pulleys and a clever gripping system to allow a user to incrementally move between floors in a building. Claimed to require less than 10 percent of the effort needed to climb stairs, and with no other external energy input needed, the creators assert that the prototype has been successfully proven by a wide range of people, including an amputee and an MS sufferer.

By continually pulling up on the rails, a person seated within the unit is drawn upwards by a combination of the spring action of elasticized ropes and a tensioned pulley system, whilst being able to rest between exertions, held in place by a set of grippers on each vertical pillar.

"This keeps people moving, yet it can accommodate less able people and it requires no power at all!" said Professor Alison McGregor, chair of the biodynamics group, Imperial College London. "What more do we need?"

The experimental system has attracted attention at a range of design exhibits, including a recent exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale, and is now to be displayed at Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, October 22 to 30, 2016.

The video below shows the Vertical Walking system in action.

Source: Rombout

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