Pushing the boundaries with superyacht elevators
Opulent design international believe we could soon see elevators emerging through the hull structure underwater……
The world's first designer and supplier of bespoke carbon fibre lifts for the superyacht industry and high-end residential market recently received its first maritime order having been commissioned to supply carbon fibre lift interiors for a vessel in Florida.
The ultra-lightweight lifts are constructed for Opulent Designs International in the UK by carbon fibre specialist Supernatural-X at its 10,000 square metre facility. They will then be shipped to Holland Marine Lifts BV in Rotterdam for assembly and onboard installation.
The CEO of Opulent Designs, Alister Bennett explained the unique selling point to SuperyachtNews, “A typical steel shaft installation might weigh 400Kg whereas a carbon-fibre shaft could be just 15Kg! These can be installed section by section too, being easily manhandled, whereas steel shafts are normally lowered in by crane. We do expect the cruise ship industry to commission carbon-fibre lifts too and are working with residential architects in the Middle East and Europe on confidential projects. The compactness of carbon-fibre cabins and shafts is also appealing for the yacht market since it frees up more valuable deck space for living. Another point, we are looking closely at bronze and mirrored finishes being applied directly to the carbon-fibre shaft avoiding the need for an extra layer of cladding."
A fully operational Opulent Designs carbon fibre lift is also being installed at Holland Marine Lifts’ own facility this spring as a working showcase for superyacht builders, designers and project managers. As well as a huge weight saving – Opulent Designs’ lift cabins and shafts can weigh up to a twentieth of their steel counterparts – another big advantage is the flexibility that carbon fibre construction allows designers. Virtually any feasible design is possible and the strength of the material (typically five times stronger than steel) makes for less bulky shafts, keeping usable living spaces on all decks as large as possible.
Opulent Designs International is working with a number of designers and craftsmen – including renowned Silverlining Furniture, Shamsian and Taurini – to showcase examples of potential finishes for lift cabin interiors. This is of course a very niche product in a very niche industry, but the company have identified a space where they can excel and become trailblazers. The future of elevators on luxury vessels may be more exciting than many would have previously expected.
Bennett explained, “With Opulent Designs International’s research into linear lifts, the possibilities of a lift cabin ‘popping up’ through a deck hatch, to keep a low profile when not in use, are available now - with investment in engineering and working with a Classification society. Emerging through a hull structure is more our creative people brainstorming of what would be fun (imagine taking a guest in the lift after dinner and descending underwater to see the sea life lit up through watertight sealed glass doors!) and would be more challenging given the water pressure and dynamic loads involved. Theoretically, it is achievable but we don’t expect to receive a request in the immediate future!"
Different operating mechanisms may be used to allow for lift cabins to 'pop up' through a hatch, appearing on an otherwise flush deck, and eventually – for the owner who dares to push the boundaries and with Classification Society and Flag State approval – emerge through the hull structure underwater. Some stakeholders would argue that the boundaries of safety and classification have been pushed far enough, while others would argue the case for creativity and innovation in an exuberant market. "Opulent Designs has already had preliminary investigative discussions with DNV and we were impressed by their receptiveness and openness to innovation.
Bennett continues, “Ultimately it would be a question of working with both Class and Flag State for a particular, individual lift project, along with the superyacht designers of course. Together with Holland Marine Lifts and Supernatural X (renowned for work with McLaren) we expect to lead the market in carbon-fibre lifts and to be accepted by the industry in the coming 12 months, after our first two installations (in build now) are proven."
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