Rising to an impressive 56 floors, Island Shangri-La Hong Kong provides a peaceful escape in the very heart of Hong Kong and comes with all the bells, whistles, and first-class service one would expect. The building is also occupied by commercial companies, with office floors managed by Swire Properties. As the hotel and offices were in full operation throughout the project, our team had to install 13 modernized Schindler 7000 elevators with minimal noise and impact on operations.
All elevator projects come with unique challenges. But when our engineers saw the specifications for a project to modernize the elevators at the Island
Shangri-La luxury hotel in Hong Kong, one detail stood out: a request for the elevators to accommodate Chinese-style steamed fish.
Even more unexpectedly, the specification did not come from the hotel or the property’s management – but directly from the kitchen of one of the Shangri-La’s five-star restaurants.
"I’ve never seen anything like this before," says Michael Ngan, Project Manager for the Island Shangri-La Hong Kong modernization project. "This was an unusually interesting challenge. We called the solution ‘steamed fish mode.’"
Rising to a commanding 56 floors, "the Shang" provides a peaceful escape in the very heart of Hong Kong. Sweeping views of the city’s iconic skyline, The Peak, and Victoria Harbor are a ubiquitous source of wonder throughout the hotel’s 557 rooms and suites, each brimming with graceful Asian-inspired décor. Built in 1991, this is one of the Shangri-La group’s flagship properties, and comes with all the bells, whistles, and first-class service one would expect.
Since the hotel was fully operational, work to transform its vertical mobility solutions had to be done without disturbing guests during evenings or through the night. Nor could noise be made during office hours. While the hotel inhabits floors 3 to 9 and 38 to 56, floors 9 to 37 of the building, which is managed by Swire Properties, are occupied by commercial companies, many of them trading or finance firms. "We’d never been handed such strict noise restriction requirements for a project in Hong Kong," says Michael.
"The tender allowed for just one hour of noise, between 5pm and 6pm," he explains. "Luckily, we were able to work with Swire Properties and Shangri-La to create a ‘noisy work’ schedule that would allow us more time to work each day. But it meant we had to be pragmatic and quick to adjust to change."
For example, if the hotel had special activities planned or special guests booked on specific floors, our teams would restrict their work to other floors. When guests checked in, they would be placed in rooms as far away from the elevator shafts as possible. "We even made an educational video about our work to give hotel staff a better understanding of what was being undertaken," explains Michael.
The same principle applied on the office floors if there were special events or meetings – but much of the work on these levels was carried out during weekends.
"The project was far from straightforward, but I believe we managed it well and both Shangri-La and Swire were happy with the result," says Michael.
The modernization project was the first of its kind in the hotel’s lifespan and involved 13 elevators. Seven of these were passenger elevators, including two panoramic glass elevators which provide stunning views of The Great Motherland of China – a colossal 16-floor mural inside the hotel’s inner atrium. But it’s the service elevators, behind the scenes, that received the biggest makeover, helping to increase the overall experience for guests staying at the hotel – all while remaining out of sight.
Our team installed a custom-made corner post elevator, which has two doors at 90-degree angles to one and other. This set-up allows direct access to the elevator from the pantries on each floor, as well as the standard exit to the lobby – making service with a trolley easier to navigate and quicker.
Two of three service elevators were converted into double-deck elevators – an impressive feat of engineering, considering they were fitted in the original shafts designed for single-deck elevators. These double-deck elevators, coupled with Schindler PORT – our intelligent building transit management system – can support the same level of traffic as the original three single-deck elevators. This significantly increased service elevator capacity without adding new shafts or altering the building’s current footprint. Another special request was the "steamed fish mode."
Preparation of steamed fish – a signature Hong Kong dish that calls for the flesh to be silky-smooth and topped with scallion julienne and ginger – is all about timing. The Michelin Guide goes as far as to say that "seconds of overcooking could drag the mood of the whole meal down."
In the Island Shangri-La building, the kitchen and the restaurant are on the seventh floor, but guests can order food to their rooms, on any of the hotel’s floors. "When the fish is ready, it needs to be in front of the guest within five minutes," explains Michael. "The fish can’t get overcooked, and it can’t get cold, so when a guest orders it to their room there’s no time to waste waiting for the elevator."
This is where the ‘steamed fish mode’ plays its part in culinary perfection. The two double-deck service elevators can be coordinated so that, whenever the chef is preparing a steamed fish, one of them will be ready and waiting for delivery. Once the fish is inside, the "steamed fish mode" ensures that the elevator will not be stopped until it’s reached its destined floor.
"Our elevators guarantee that the fish arrives tender and juicy every time, no matter which floor it’s going to," says Michael, with a broad smile.
The double-deck solution brought, in turn, a new challenge, however. Once the project had started, it became evident that the heights of different floors were not completely even. Sometimes a floor was 30 millimeters taller than the one below it, sometimes a few millimeters shorter. This is no problem for single-deck elevators, but a major issue for double-deck elevators. The solution was to adjust the levels using slightly ramped flooring to ensure smooth entry into the lift cars at each floor.
"It was a challenge using exciting architecture, since the levels were uneven," Michael says.
All materials and components for the modernization were manufactured at our factory in Shanghai, and our Custom Design Engineering (CDE) team there supported the team in Hong Kong throughout the project. Before installation, Peter Si, the supervising engineer from Hong Kong, spent a week in Shanghai with the CDE team reviewing the assembly process for the corner post and double-deck elevators.
"Like the double-deck lifts, corner post cars can improve logistics and traffic flow," says Wu Xiao Dong, Senior Mechanical Engineer in Shanghai. Corner post elevators involve mounting rails in opposite corners of a hoistway to accommodate doors in adjacent walls. "They’re more technical to install than a conventional car, mainly because of the diagonal arrangement of the guide rails. The Hong Kong team did a great job with the installation."
The modernization project also brought about several environmental benefits. By deploying updated technology, more efficient motors, and new traffic flow solutions, we helped to raise the building’s overall energy rating and cut operational costs.
For Michael personally, the Shangri-La project has a special place in his heart – it was his last project in Hong Kong before moving with his family to the UK.
"One of the great things about working for such a multinational company is that you can find opportunities in different countries," he says. "I have many good memories from this last project. It was unique, and we learned a lot. I don’t expect to get many steamed fish requests in the UK, though."