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Patrick Mason

There is a pretty decent potential for harvesting energy from students travelling downstairs. Much like the exercise machines, the student is a weight (lets say 60kg average) travelling a vertical distance, about 3 meters per floor. thats about 1766 joules per floor, or 0.5 watt hours. A descent from the 22nd floor has 11wh of potential, and even from the lowest apartment room on 6th floor there is 3wh.

How to harvest the energy safely and conveniently? A vertical rope conveyor with standing platforms, located in a tube that prevents falling off. The furthest possible fall would be the vertical spacing of the platform, but more realistically half that, or about 1 meter.

This could be sited in an elevator shaft, in the stairwell shaft if there is an open center, or added to the building exterior as a visual element.

An alternative to the platform design is to have a chairlift style track system installed above/below the stairway handrail on one side, and each occupant of the building optionally carries their own removable chair descending seat/board with them on the ascent. When ready to descend, the board is dropped into the track system and ridden down. The easiest power storage would be direct to a battery in each riding board; although it would also be possible to discharge the energy directly into contact bars in the track system. The power could be generated by a motor/generator on the riding board, using a simple friction drive skate wheel bearing against the track.

Human Power Plant

@ Patrick Mason

Thanks for calculating! We hope to keep one of the former elevator shafts free for faster descending.


I was thinking about a traction elevator with energy recuperation when:
- a heavy lift is going down
- a light lift (less than balance weight) is going up

The lift could be programmed in order that it only can be used when the energy generation conditions are met.

This would, except for the energy recuperation, mean a time saving for the downward movement (if lift is free) and for some of the upward movements.

The counter balance of the lift could be adjustable with water (from a rainwater tank under the roof) to make more lift passages possible.


what about students in wheelchairs? How will they travel between floors?


Consider the typical use of a handrail while descending a flight of stairs—one usually lightly grips the rail and slides one's hand along it, wasting energy through dissipation. What if the rail were replaced with a belt which one could grip firmly? Loop the belt around a dynamo, and you have a means of capturing human power on the descent with minimal infrastructure and no need for any behavioral change.

The use of a handrail on the ascent is different—if one uses the handrail at all, one usually grips it to pull oneself upward. No way to usefully capture energy with this behavior; the rail on the ascent-side of the stairs could just be a normal rail, or each belt-rail could be fitted with a one-way ratchet.


how about a hydraulic lift, that only offers the possibility to go down (in most cases)
The construction would look like:
- Two platforms connected with a hydraulic system
- A water storage on the roof of the building (or a link to the pressured water tank from the power rooms)
- only one entry point e.g. at floor 18

The idea:
People from the floors ~14 to 22 can use the lift located in floor 18 to come down quite fast and easily
While decending, the second platform is pushed up to floor 18 by the hydraulic pressure created on the way down of the first platform.
All potential energy not used to lift the second platform is transferred into the water storage (or the pressurized water tank from the power generation floors)
This way, every decent does generate a fraction of the power each person does have to generate each day and the upper floor inhabitants do spend time to transfer food to potential energy by climbing up the stairs, converting the energy to pressure or potential energy stored in water using the elevator.

Nikolay Ivankov

"A student that lives on the highest floor -- where the cheapest rooms are -- would need to climb 75 metres, which is comparable to walking the stairs of the Montagne de Buere -- a 347 step staircase in the city of Liège, Belgium."

Seriously? Like, you know, I'm walking to my job each workday, and since it is a farm on a hill, I'm effectively climbing just about this elevation, even somewhat more. I'm afraid you may want to consider not even charging people less, but rather paying them more to for just living there.

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