Elevator Modernization: When Is It Time?


In this Readers Platform, your author explains how to approach this major investment armed with insight.

The decision to modernize your elevators should never be taken lightly. An elevator modernization will be a large-scale event in your building’s life, causing disruption and disarray, and can be one of the largest capital expenditures your building has ever faced. However, in many cases, modernization is worth the cost in long-term benefits. Unfortunately, it can be di–cult to determine exactly when to undertake such a project. Given what’s at stake financially and logistically, most building owners need really good reasons to embark on the endeavor.

Many factors can go into the decision to modernize, including current operational e–ciencies of the equipment, performance, parts availability, potential code upgrades, class of the building and age of the elevator and its components. More commonly than you might think, many elevators don’t actually receive their regularly scheduled preventive maintenance, but are worked on only when there is an issue to repair. This can contribute to a more rapid rate of equipment breakdown, requiring replacements and modernizations earlier than anticipated.

In some instances, the elevator company itself will recommend modernization with the claim that certain parts and equipment are being discontinued, or that they cannot otherwise maintain it properly because it is outdated. In reality, equipment parts can almost always be located or fixed to properly fulfill the lifecycle of the equipment. For instance, we are seeing some elevator companies recommending modernization at 15 years on equipment that should last 25-30 years.

The conflict of interest here is apparent. Elevator companies telling property owners to modernize obviously stand to make a lot of money from the project. In that case, what ends up happening is a waiting game. Will the next maintenance issue you have be deemed fixable, or will the elevator company insist on a modernization? Then, you have to decide if it’s better to risk being forced to update your equipment, versus planning for it before an unfixable problem arises.

If you’re already spending the money to make necessary repairs and replacements, is it a better long-term investment to go ahead and modernize, ensuring code compliance and significantly reducing the risk of costly repairs, tenant frustration, downtime and safety issues? Choosing between short- and long-term benefits definitely requires some predictive data analysis and, likely, some finessing of your budget.

It is pretty shocking that building owners will expend resources to conduct energy audits, monitor power and gain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, yet ignore similar practices with elevatvators

Unfortunately, many building owners lack access to the insight they need to make an informed decision. The information they do have is provided to them by the elevator service provider’s team, which, of course, has its own interests and revenue goals in mind. Most owners rely entirely on the elevator service provider to oversee what amounts to the largest capital asset in their building. It is pretty shocking that building owners will expend resources to conduct energy audits, monitor power and gain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, yet ignore similar practices with elevators. Ultimately, this puts passengers and workers at risk and, in many cases, leads to more expensive solutions down the line.

To evaluate a potential modernization, building owners must consider factors like the elevator lifecycle, reliability and current usage, along with the condition and age of components including controllers and machines. But, elevator companies often keep their service records, data and maintenance records under wraps, so you may have di–culty obtaining them and, more importantly, understanding and validating them. It is critical (and required by code in some areas) that building owners keep their own records to be certain of the information they need.

Working with an elevator consultant can help ensure you have access to all the elevator data you need to evaluate a potential modernization. Consultants can help you analyze patterns in usage, track the frequency and severity of maintenance problems and safety incidents, and estimate equipment needs and overall project costs to help you make the right decision.

Additionally, should you decide to undergo a modernization, an elevator consultant can help manage the project, keeping you within time and budgetary constraints. They not only have the data, they have the knowledge of the space to interpret it, and the ability to counsel you on risks and pitfalls, as well as must-haves and must-avoids. They will instruct you if a modernization is truly necessary, if parts are obsolete and generally serve as an advocate for you and your financial interests.

The hefty cost of an elevator modernization can be daunting, and many building owners put it off until it becomes unavoidable. However, they run the risk of having to replace their equipment when they are not prepared for the cost and disruption. Stopgap measures that don’t address the root cause of the outdated system are likely to be more expensive in the long run.

Working with an elevator consultant to stay current with your elevator performance data can help you pinpoint the ideal time to modernize, allowing you to plan and budget in advance. Plus, when you’re ready to pull the trigger on modernization, they can help ensure the project runs smoothly and according to your specifications. This can be followed by a preventive-maintenance agreement that has terms and conditions designed to meet the building’s operations. It’s one of the most important investments you’ll make in your building, so make sure you approach it armed with the insight you need.

Take the Online Quiz

Thinking about a modernization? Try the TEC “Should We Modernize?” quiz at theelevatorconsultant.com/elevator-modernization and find out how to get started.

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Elevator World | May 2019 Cover