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KONE modernized a total of 12 escalators in the Los Angeles Central Library, which serves as many as 5,000 visitors a day; photo by William J. Saylor.

KONE’s EcoMod™ system upgrades historic library’s escalators with minimal disruption.

The Los Angeles Central Library is an iconic landmark. Consisting of the original five-story 1926 building designed by architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue and the eight-story Bradley wing added in 1993, the complex is a dynamic blend of classic and contemporary architecture. With its listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the library honors its past, while meeting the modern needs of a vibrant, diverse community. The complex houses the third-largest public library in the U.S., in terms of book and periodical holdings.

Library patrons access the facility’s interior via 12 glass escalators that date to 1991. As these machines approached the 25 – year mark, they were also nearing the end of their useful life, so library management was faced with a decision of whether to replace or modernize the escalators.

Knowing that neither building in the complex could accommodate a program of complete truss removal without extensive demolition (and aware that the budget would not stand for it), library management opted for an innovative modernization solution. For a facility serving as many as 5,000 people a day, closing for the duration of the project was not an option. KONE EcoMod™ offered minimal disruption, allowing library operations to continue safely and without interruption. Further minimizing impact, installation activities were conducted overnight, during the library’s off-hours.

The first phase of the project — installation of two EcoMod escalators in cramped spaces in the 1926 building — was launched in the fourth quarter of 2015. The initial installation was conceived as a means of evaluating application of the innovative solution throughout the complex. It also met budgetary concerns, as the publicly funded facility could not afford to replace all 12 units at once. Including subsequent project awards, all 12 escalators were modernized by KONE in a four-phase project completed in August 2018.

Challenges

Built nine decades ago, the Goodhue building presented its own challenges to escalator modernization. A large building with small access points, the property was ill suited for complete truss replacement. Walls and doorways would have to be demolished to allow delivery of a 20,000-lb. truss. Construction costs would spike, and normal library operations would be significantly impacted. The KONE EcoMod escalator modernization solution was designed for just such a project, but work at the site remained difficult, nonetheless. Installation crews worked in extremely limited space never intended to accommodate escalators, and corridors had to remain open.

Because the Los Angeles Central Library has no full-size freight elevator, each upper EcoMod module was broken down so it could be moved from the loading dock to the escalator truss. Once there, it was reassembled and installed. To accommodate library management concerns, all tools and materials were removed from the worksite at the end of each shift and secured in a storage area some distance from the site. And, because the equipment being replaced was not originally positioned in cohesive groups, escalator-access cover plates were butted up against each other in places. Accordingly, barricades were frequently repositioned to allow patrons access to escalators adjacent to those being modernized.

Long corridors and hallways were surfaced with irreplaceable vintage terracotta tiles, requiring crews to cover the flooring with protective material at the start of every shift and remove it at the end of every shift. New EcoMod decking was designed to interface with existing decorative escalator truss cladding.

Finally, there was the challenge one would face in any traditional library environment: in the Los Angeles Central Library, as in libraries around the world, silence is golden. Noise from an active construction site would be particularly unwelcome.

Advantages

For the Los Angeles Central Library, the EcoMod escalator modernization solution injected entirely new escalators into existing trusses. Today, the library enjoys brand-new technology, reduced energy consumption and operating costs, and a robust 25- to 30-year equipment lifecycle. EcoMod also delivers enhanced safety. Modernized escalators are fully equipped with state-of-the-art safety features meeting all current codes and regulations.

With installation of entirely new equipment — including a full truss replacement — all existing escalators are shut down for extensive demolition and reconstruction. With EcoMod, only a pair of escalators is taken out of service at a time. At the Los Angeles Central Library, this ensured smooth people flow throughout the project’s four phases. This kind of flexibility is a particularly good fit for a large public project, where budget allocations must be spread over a period of years. Minimizing disruption through the life of the project, EcoMod lends itself well to the four-phase approach employed at the Los Angeles Central Library. As patrons read, studied and conducted research, the traditional quiet environment that is every library’s hallmark was preserved.

Summary/Conclusion

The fourth and final phase of the Los Angeles Central Library’s escalator modernization project was completed in late August 2018, more than three months ahead of schedule. The customer was fully satisfied with the result. “We anticipated that it would not be finished until late November,” Eloisa Sarao, Assistant Business Manager, Los Angeles Public Library, said. “Everybody was so happy when they saw the project was completed.”

Ruben Verduzco, Escalator Repair Supervisor for the City of Los Angeles with nearly 30 years’ experience,Text Box: Verduzcoserved as project manager for the modernization. He said city mechanics work on many different types of escalators and “were all surprised by how well the library’s modernized escalators run and by how quiet they are,” adding, “the new equipment has been really good; we haven’t had many issues.”

Home to an adult literacy center, a 235-seat auditorium, children’s theater, three galleries, a gift shop and restaurant, the Los Angeles Central Library is a busy community hub. Dependable and reliable escalators are essential in a facility open to the public seven days a week. In addition to traditional functions, it also serves as a cooling center during periods of extreme heat. At such times, the library population swells considerably, and the building’s escalators experience increased use.

Through EcoMod, the Los Angeles Central Library avoided the high cost and debilitating upheaval that would have resulted from complete truss replacement. The result: a smooth, safe installation that allowed library operations to continue safely and with minimal disruption, ensuring a completely satisfied customer and dependable vertical transportation in a historic Los Angeles landmark.

Timeline

Phase 1: Two escalators modernized in Goodhue building; installation complete May 2016.
Phase 2: Four escalators modernized: two in Goodhue building (installation complete October 2016) and two in Bradley wing (installation complete March 2017).
Phase 3: Four escalators modernized in Bradley wing; installation complete May 2018.
Phase 4: Two escalators modernized in Bradley wing; installation complete August 2018 (three months ahead of schedule).

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Elevator World | January 2019 Cover