Aiming high!

Lifts Inspection: Elbe Philharmonic Hall

13 January 2017

In Hamburg, a new city landmark was inaugurated on 11 and 12 January with the opening ceremony for the Elbphilharmonie, or “Elphi”. This prominent building at the port is principally a concert hall, but it also features a five-star hotel, restaurants and some high-end residential units. These are all connected by numerous lifts - all of which have been inspected by Kay thom Suden from TÜV NORD. In the #explore interview he talks about the testing process and offers an insight into what particularly inspires him architecturally.

This week saw the official opening of the Elbphilharmonie. How long have you been working on the project?

The first enquiries came in 2007. At that time the architects were working on various possible designs for the lifts. We assessed these proposals to see if they could be implemented. But most of the time we had to say no (laughs).

From mid-2009 I started visiting the site regularly to carry out inspections, at first for temporary construction site lifts, then for a lot of other installations. Sometimes I would be away from the site for three months, on other occasions I would be there for three weeks at a time, all depending on the progress of construction.

Are there really so many lifts?

There are 31 in total. Alongside your classic passenger lifts you also have, for example, fire brigade lifts, which are appropriate in certain situations to get firemen quickly to higher floors. There are also large cargo lifts and little ‘dumb waiters’ - goods lifts for the kitchens.

Was it a job like any other?

No, it was really interesting, and I'm glad I was called on to do it. To be able to support one single project for ten whole years is a one-off opportunity. I got really excited about the Elbphilharmonie right from the start and was able to see at first hand during the construction phase what kind of techniques were being used to create a building that was both light and strong. And it was also very exciting in professional terms, as there are different installations with very high speeds up to 3.5 m/s, lifting heights of up to 90 metres and high load capacities of up to 4 tonnes. What’s more, the lifts had to be continually adapted to comply with the state of the art.

“There are different installations with very high speeds up to 3.5 m/s, lifting heights of up to 90 metres and high load capacities of up to 4 tonnes.”

Kay thom Suden, TÜV NORD

Why was that?

When construction began, lifts were still being commissioned according to national law, but after that European standards and annexes had to be taken into account, and the Industrial Safety Ordinance was revised twice. For the manufacturer, this means that everything needs to be retrofitted because the customer wants the latest technology. And the result of all this is new inspections.

And have you been back since the “Elphi” opened its doors to the public late last year?

Not yet - I’m letting all those people who’ve never been there get in first. But I do have some concert tickets and am looking forward to visiting the Elphi as a normal guest.


Kay thom Suden has been inspecting lifts for 20 years. He has been with TÜV NORD since 2002.