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Major work to maintain the Tower for the future

Tuesday 20 December 2022

Modified the 20/12/22

The Eiffel Tower is undergoing the biggest works campaign in 40 years. Here we focus on the three major projects underway, coordinated by SETE.

Parisians, visitors from France and abroad… Many of you have seen the different types of worksite equipment in use at the Tower since 2018, either at close hand or from a distance: nets, ropes, scaffolding, construction site elevators, etc. Needless to say, the Iron Lady is now over 133 years old and needs to be looked after to preserve her eternal beauty and youth!

A monument of this kind requires constant maintenance and care, but also more extensive work campaigns over specific periods of time to ensure its longevity and welcome its nearly 6 million visitors each year in the best conditions. The latest maintenance campaigns are all the more important as the Tower will be a central feature of the images of Paris during the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024. 

The monument is currently undergoing the biggest works campaign in 40 years, conducted by SETE (Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel) and comprising three projects of an exceptional scale carried out at the same time. Their technical and workforce requirements are an unprecedented challenge:

  • the 20th painting campaign of the Tower;
  • the complete renovation of the North Pillar elevator taking visitors from the ground directly to the second floor;
  • renovation of the Duolift elevators taking visitors from the second floor to the top.
     

The painting campaign: a mammoth project for the future of the Tower

The Eiffel Tower is made of puddle iron, a material that could last almost forever if it is repainted regularly. However, several factors pose a threat, including rust, pollution inherent to its location in a big city, bird droppings and the weather. It is therefore essential to clean the monument and above all carefully and regularly apply new layers of paint by hand to protect the structure and ensure its longevity.

The Eiffel Tower has been entirely repainted every 7 years on average since 1892, in accordance with Gustave Eiffel’s recommendations. 

The monument is currently undergoing its 20th repainting campaign. The aim of SETE and all the companies involved in the project (Pierre-Antoine Gatier architectural firm, Jarnias, Atelier de France) is to have the Tower ready for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Like everything that concerns the monument, this work is of a legendary nature and reflects the gigantic scale of the Tower. It is a unique, if not historic, project by its scope and complexity, and an unprecedented technical and human challenge. 
Before applying the different layers of paint, the teams in charge of the work prepare the surfaces to ensure the best possible adhesion. 

For the first time in its history, part of the structure around the decorative arch facing the Champ de Mars will be stripped completely (removal of 19 old coats of paint). 

Still today, the painters use the traditional methods employed in Gustave Eiffel’s time: the Tower is only painted by hand. “Distance” work is not allowed and all the painters must use a hand-held paintbrush.

Preparation for this campaign was also an opportunity to reflect on the historical colors of the Tower, which has been protected as an historic monument since 1964. SETE entrusted the management of this project and the preparatory historical study of the Eiffel Tower’s paintwork to the agency of Pierre-Antoine Gatier, Head Architect for Historic Monuments.

At the end of the preparatory study, yellow-brown was chosen as the new color, the same as the one used in 1907 when Gustave Eiffel discovered that his Tower was to become a permanent feature of the Parisian landscape; it is a color that echoes the facades of the city’s buildings. 

 

Full renovation of the North Pillar elevator

What would the Tower be without its elevators? Essential equipment for both the monument’s visitors and the people who work there, between them the elevators travel over 64,000 miles each year, which is two and a half times around the Earth!

In addition to daily maintenance and regular upkeep, SETE constantly works to modernize its equipment and ensure its compliance with all the regulations in force. After the renovation of the historic elevator in the West Pillar — completed in 2014 — it is now the turn of the North Pillar elevator to benefit from full renovation, for which work began in the fall of 2018 and will be completed by 2024.

Unlike the historic elevators in the West and East Pillars, which are hydraulically operated, the north elevator is run on electricity. It is nonetheless unique in its kind. Dating from 1964, this dual-cab elevator made 130 trips per day, covering 6,213 miles per year to transport approximately 12,000 people, at an average speed of 6.6 feet per second.

The complete modernization of the elevator aims to improve the conditions of reception and ascent of visitors and to enhance and facilitate the work of the welcome staff and technical teams by installing modern workstations and new control systems. The work, carried out mainly by Baudin-Châteauneuf and Eiffage Métal, concerns the entire elevator system: cabs, pulleys, automation system, shafts and counterweights. All the vital elements will be replaced and modernized. New components, which are unique in the world, have been specially prototyped for the Eiffel Tower.

Despite the exceptional scale of this project, it does not disrupt access to the monument for visitors, who can use the elevators in the East and West Pillars or the South Pillar staircase. 

 

 

Major renovation of the elevators to the Top 

Installed in 1982 by Otis, these elevators are called Duolifts and allow millions of visitors to make the dizzying and memorable ascent from the second floor to the top. Each elevator (DUO 1 and DUO 2) consists of two cabs that act as counterweights for each other. Each cab has a capacity of around 20 passengers, allowing up to 80 people to travel simultaneously up and down, covering a distance of 525 feet through the longest open-air shaft ever travelled by an elevator.

Exposed to the elements and operating nearly 14 hours a day, they are put to the test all year round. Their availability and reliability are essential for the continuity of the Tower's activity. After a previous major modernization project in 1998, which included the renewal of the equipment at the top, and the replacement of the machinery in 2001, the Duolifts are once again in need of an overall revamp to ensure optimal operating rate.

Conducted by Otis in partnership with SETE from January 2022 through February 2024, the work aims to renovate all the electric and safety systems, modernize the machinery by removing the old electrical generators and installing new systems, and improve the performance of the elevators (new control system). This general overhaul will reduce the electricity consumption of the equipment by nearly 50%.  The cabs are also being modernized (lighting, air conditioning, heating, displays, controls) to offer visitors an even more enjoyable experience with real-time information on the ascent (height, speed), while the lift operators will benefit from a modernized workstation with touch-screen equipment.

Like for the other projects underway at the Tower, the work has been specifically organized to prevent disruption to visitors. It is carried out at night when the monument is closed and during the annual closure of the top of the Tower from early January through early February. By February 2023, the DUO 1 elevator will be fully modernized and by February 2024, work on DUO 2 will in turn be finalized. 
 

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