Gouffre de Padirac image of elevator

Gouffre de Padirac

Padirac, France

See how field preparations and careful coordination enabled Otis to execute a challenging and creative installation at the Gouffre de Padirac

Located in the Occitanie region of southwest France, the Gouffre de Padirac (or the Padirac Chasm) is one of the country’s most popular natural sites, attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. When tasked with modernizing the lowermost elevator that brings visitors to the bottom of the chasm, Otis developed a tailored solution to overcome the site’s monumental scale and exposed operating conditions.

 


 

Project Facts

  • Completed: February 2021
  • Depth: ~75 meters (~246 feet)
  • Number of elevators: 4
  • Visitors per year: ~350,000
  • Consultant: Groupe Acceo

Unique Requirements

Due to the rocky conditions within the Gouffre de Padirac, there are a total of three elevators connecting the site lobby to the floor of the chasm, along with an additional unit reserved for tour guides.

In 2020, with an ever-increasing number of tourists, the staff decided to renovate the lowermost elevator that was beginning to show signs of wear. With a location that’s both difficult to access and exposed to climatic conditions, transporting the necessary equipment for the installation would prove challenging. On top of that, the procedure would have to be carried out in the middle of winter to avoid disrupting the site’s tourist season.

Otis Innovation

By combining extensive technical expertise with a proven ability to work in remote environments, Otis was able to meet the complex challenges of this installation.

To do so, field teams conducted a study of the site in 2019 and used the results to develop a customized plan for the project. This included the usage of a crane, supplied and operated by Bovis Company, to lower the heaviest components along the vertical wall of the chasm.

For eight weeks, Otis personnel worked through harsh conditions to bring the elevator system into complete regulatory conformity within the required timeframe.

Overcoming extreme conditions to ensure safety and reliability at one of France’s most unique natural heritage sites

View into Gouffre de Padirac

“We called on Otis to modernize the entire installation – the machinery, the electrical system and the cab doors – and we’re very happy with the work that was done. I’d like to thank the technical teams who endured harsh climatic conditions to make this project a success. Thanks to their efforts, we can start a new year with peace of mind knowing our elevators are safe and reliable. We know we can count on the Otis team.”

Christophe Bas, Gouffre de Padirac Deputy Technical Director

An underground marvel which has captivated visitors for over a hundred years

Discovered in 1889 by explorer Édouard-Alfred Martel (1859-1938), the Gouffre de Padirac is an immense chasm and underground cave system located near Gramat, in the heart of France’s Dordogne Valley.

Every year, nearly a half a million visitors descend 75 meters via elevator or staircase before exploring its underground river and galleries.

With limestone rock walls, massive caverns and impressive stalactites, one of which is over 60 meters long, it’s no wonder that the Gouffre de Padirac is regarded as one of the region’s most extraordinary natural phenomena.

Environmental challenges...

The unique geological and environmental conditions of the site created a series of complications for this renovation project.

To begin with, the elevators operate in exposed conditions, including rain, snow, wind, frost and a constant 98 percent humidity. When it rains, water runs down the hoistway walls and can lead to flooding during times of high precipitation.

This means that any new equipment or wiring has to be watertight to ensure long-term durability.

...on a monumental scale 

Also, with the cave open to the public from April to November, the elevator modernization project had to be scheduled to take place during the winter season.

Because of this, Otis personnel had to account for snow and rain making the transportation of materials from the bottom of the chasm to the elevator machinery challenging.

And with constant ice buildup on the limestone walls, lowering the heaviest equipment via crane would require precise planning and careful execution.

Solution

From the Eiffel Tower to our work on iconic buildings in Paris’s la Défense business district, customers across France have trusted us to take on some of the country’s most challenging cultural heritage projects. The renovation we performed at the Gouffre de Padirac was yet another demonstration of our ability to apply deep expertise and careful planning to a project with strict requirements.

Among the improvements made were the addition of galvanized cables capable of withstanding extreme weather conditions, stainless-steel cab doors designed to avoid corrosion, a new heavy traction motor, and a sensor system for detecting flooding at the bottom of the hoistway. Together, these upgrades increased the elevator’s reliability and ensured regulatory conformity and proper operation – all in time for the site’s reopening in spring 2021.

We are also now providing ongoing service and support for all four of the elevators onsite. Our trained service employees perform regular upkeep and maintenance throughout the year to make sure each unit is operating correctly. The team also conducts an annual, two-week, in-depth maintenance phase every spring, prior to the site’s re-opening. And with a continuous stock of spare parts kept at the location, we’re able to execute repairs quickly and efficiently to minimize disruptions.

 


At Otis, we’re honored to have been a part of the unique renovation project at the Gouffre de Padirac and are proud of our teams for overcoming the challenges that came with it. Through their efforts, this breathtaking natural site will continue to be accessible for visitors and scientists for years to come.

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