Category Archives: Architects

Don’t Suffer Buyer’s Remorse

Empty WalletRecently, we got an all-too-familiar email when following up on an apartment complex bid we had put together on an elevator project. We had been asked to provide a bid for a new project, and about a year had passed since the project had been awarded.  We were not the vertical transportation solution chosen. However, this type of email exchange is something that has become very common for us as the prospective customer checks their wallet at the end of the project and finds out it is empty.

In answering our question about how the project was going, the customer responded, “As you know, the contractor went with a conventional unit, which on the surface is cheaper.  However, if all the costs were included, I’m sure we picked the wrong one. Anyway, I like what you are doing and will look forward to working with you in the near future.”

He went on to say that the person in charge of accepting the bid had failed on a number of levels leaving many scratching their heads and wondering how the cost got so far out of whack. First and foremost, the cost analysis completed had not included the expense of building a stick-built hoistway. Our units, of course, include the hoistway, complete with finished doorways and hall calls ready to go, with the elevator car inserted in our factory and all of the wiring already complete. It is ready for installation, whether traction or hydraulic. The four-by-four-inch tube steel hoistway is wrapped in drywall to provide a one- or two-hour fire rating and will accept any finish, whether it is going on the interior or exterior of a building.

Pleasant Prairie

The customer was also frustrated with the constant delays of the project by the stick-built elevator company.  Starts and stops are not unusual on a big apartment complex project, but the delays coming from an elevator contractor can be maddening.  Keep in mind, the old-fashioned stick-built elevator companies will say they have a 16-week lead time, but they are not including construction of the hoistway. This means that the elevator hoistway is the first thing built and there it sits until the project has the electric turned on.  Then they start placing the rails and building an elevator car inside the hoistway (the dumbest way to build an elevator).  Weeks to months later, it is finally finished. We have an eight-week lead time and less than a week installation. One of our current clients estimates our solution can shave six months off the total construction time. Faster completion means quicker occupancy.

Third on the list of complaints was a steady stream of change orders.  When we price a project, we don’t just throw rough numbers or standard designs out there that do not match your expectations and then change-order you to death when it is not what you wanted.  We take the time to read the specifications closely and deliver a proposal as close to the final price as possible. We know this keeps us from being competitive on some jobs, but we are willing to take that chance. Knowing what you as the customer want and delivering an accurate bid are important to us, and we hope it will be for you as well.

Lastly, ongoing costs of long-term maintenance agreements drive the cost of the elevator way up when dealing with the Goliath elevator companies.  Over a 25-year span of time, maintenance for a single three-stop traction unit from a major elevator company is nearly $180,000.  Many unknowingly are inking a lopsided deal that spans the best ten years of the life of an elevator and auto-increases every year. Our elevators have non-proprietary parts that allow for flexibility and shopping of maintenance contracts. This can be a significant savings over time. Our elevators also come with a one-year initial maintenance contract that can be shopped if the customer is not satisfied with the service.

For all the above reasons, the prospective customer felt buyer’s remorse. We may have lost the first bid, but we gained a life-long customer in the process. Hopefully, you will skip the pain of overpaying and start with a modular elevator from Phoenix Modular Elevator.



Elevator Ignorance Cost Big Time

benjamin-franklin-portrait“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Recently we received an inquiry from a prospective client regarding our suggested use of a hydraulic unit in a four story project with approximately forty-five feet of travel.

The client was very impressed with our eight week lead time and one week install that could simply not be matched by any stick built alternative. However, they were being sold hardcore on the notion that hydraulic elevators were too out-dated and more costly regarding electricity used over time and the initial wiring. To answer their questions and suspicions, they went to an electrical contractor for basic answers and got some really bad info.  Fortunately, they reached out to us before making a decision. Without casting aspersions, the electrician was obviously out of his depth and showed the ignorance that good ol’ Ben Franklin was warning about.

The electrician was just flat out wrong about required lighting and receptacles in the elevator pit (yes, you still need one for MRL Traction) and shaft as well as shut off requirements, but, more than that, he was quite myopic when it came to overall electric costs. His contention is found in the old canard that hydraulics are significantly more expensive to run as there are no counter-weights. Usually missing in the equation is that hydraulic units cost virtually nothing when they go down (gravity, not an electric motor, does all the work in the case of hydros when they descend). Also, electric is not the only cost in play and ultimately not that important in the overall picture.  But, don’t take my word for it.

One of the companies that pushes a traction mode-of-conveyance the most made this stunning admission in a blog post just three-years ago concerning hydraulic elevators:

Thiesen Blog“In fact, a 2,500 lb. elevator,  traveling a single floor (12 feet) at 100 fpm (feet per minute) and operates 100 runs a day,  does not even use $600 worth of energy in an entire year. So assuming the hydraulic uses more energy than traction, you could have a differential of perhaps just $150 a year in energy cost.” 

But even more shocking is what follows:

“We conducted Life Cycle Costing (LCC) research on low-rise elevators to help customers understand their economic and environmental impacts. LCC looks at the costs involved with a product or service over its entire lifetime. The study showed that over 25 years, the cost to maintain three-stop traction MRL is $173k compared to the same hydraulic MRL which cost $91k.” 

I don’t have to tell you, but that is a huge. They are admitting in basic terms that an MRL traction is, give or take, seven grand out of your pocket every year when a hydraulic is only three thousand-seven hundred. That is for the same travel distance and same number of stops. In addition, there is no increased safety in traction MRLs. So the question is: why are so many people being duped into buying something that is by-and-large identical, but costs more in the initial installation and over the life span of the unit?  Believe me, when a visitor to your building pushes the up button they will not know the difference between the two but, if they do, they will find the ride in a hydraulic to be quieter and smoother (not that we’re counting, but if you’re keeping score at home that is another two wins for hydro).

Again, this is my opinion but it is backed up by facts provided by the Journal of Applied Mechanical Engineering that put the argument between traction and hydraulic to rest in low rise applications. In the article “A Critical Review and Investigation of Machine Room Less (MRL) Elevators” the authors made the following observation: “Hydraulic elevators are more suited to small rise buildings and freight applications.” It doesn’t get more straightforward than that.

But the article goes on to explain: “This report after experimentally mapping the performance of different elevator drives under varying parameters of passenger capacity, severity of service, travel and speed finds that Hydraulic elevators have advantages over traction drives in low rise applications:

  • Substantially lower initial cost of equipment and its maintenance for a given capacity hydraulic elevator equipment cost up to 40% less than traction equipment
  • More building space utilization as the hydraulic elevator utilizes up to 12% less space than an equivalent traction elevator, as the hydraulic system imposes no load on the column the column size can be reduced
  • Effective for high load requirements such as freight elevators
  • Lowest cost down speed among all elevators as gravity is utilized as the motive force

Although the report notes advantages of MRL traction units, it concludes that they have “less seismic safety” and “increased cost of inspection and maintenance.”

CiceroTo the electrician doling out sage advice (contrary to facts) and to anyone else beguiled by the big elevator’s push for more profits in maintenance and installation, I have another quote.

“I am not ashamed to confess that I am ignorant of what I do not know” ~ Cicero

It is important that, when looking at the elevator alternatives, you do not just listen to sales pitches that will cost you significantly more in the short and long term. Take a look at the facts, determine your needs, and choose wisely.  If you need help assessing what elevator will suit you best, don’t rely on a company that profits from selling you an elevator which will also make them more money in maintenance.  As we are independent, we have no profit motive in the maintenance contract, so we can help (Yes, seriously! We typically subcontract with an independent elevator maintenance company local to you, so we don’t make any profit on the cost of maintenance, no matter what kind of unit you choose). A qualified elevator consultant can assist, as well.

We are not saying that MRL traction units are not an alternative because they are an applicable mode-of-conveyance in the right application. What we are saying is that they have a place and it is just not usually in low rise buildings.  If you have a project in mind, feel free to contact us for a quick quote and our knowledgeable team will happily advise on the most effective and beneficial mode-of-conveyance for you.

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Weather Halts Construction – But Not Modular

20160105_143405We rarely re-post stuff from our other blog  Elevator Schmelevator however it seems like great info for this blog as well. Enjoy!

We have all seen the headlines: The winter weather this year, and nearly every year, puts a damper on the construction industry and new elevator installation. Work vehicles get stuck in the snow, batteries are drained dead in equipment, and materials often have a negative reaction to sub-zero temperatures. If you are having a new stick built elevator installed, it is important to know about these delays.

Concrete is one of the materials that suffers most during construction in winter weather and it’s also one of the most common ways people build hoistways or shafts. Pouring concrete is delayed anytime it gets too cold, according to Darrell Bailey from Morton Building, a firm that specializes in metal buildings of all sorts. He has seen people try to pour concrete in bad weather with horrible results. He said, “It will freeze and bust. You just can’t pour on frozen ground,” and “that means you are stuck until things thaw out.” There are some actions that can be taken to speed up the process, such as trying to warm the ground with concrete blankets or black plastic for a few days before the pour, but the results are hard to predict.

Another option is changing the mixture by adding extra concrete mix to reduce the amount of water or by adding a chemical accelerator such as calcium chloride or other heating agent. If those procedures allow for the job to continue, you still have additional work to do and several issues to work around. The area must be protected and cured for a minimum of 3 – 7 days and you can’t move anything heavy on it or put loads on it at all. You must use blankets, black plastic, or another insulating material as it cures and sometimes you’ll have to heat it from the inside and out. But there are no guarantees that these procedures will work and, if you push it too far, the surface of the concrete can freeze and pop off and it has the potential to NEVER be as durable as if it were poured in the proper temperature.

With this most recent spate of freezing temps, most of the nation’s construction came to a screeching halt. After all, you can’t even lay CMU (concrete blocks) that has either a temperature below 20°F or contains frozen moisture, visible ice, or snow on their surface. That stops a lot of building, especially elevator hoistways.

But little of this applies in the modular building industry because the bulk of the work is completed inside of a factory away from inclement weather. With modular elevators for instance we manufacture the hoistway out of tough, durable steel and then wrap it in glass-mat sheeting on the exterior and drywall on the interior for a one or two hour fire-rating.  We do not need a CMU or concrete elevator shaft to be completed. All the while it is snowing and freezing outside, the hoistway is being built inside where it is unaffected by freezing cold temperatures. As the hoistway is being constructed, the elevator components are also being manufactured in our factory or being assembled. At the end of the assembly-line you have an elevator and hoistway all in one piece, fully assembled and ready to be delivered, swung into place, and installed. The install takes less than a week and our manufacturing lead time on standard models is eight weeks plus time to ship. Keep in mind these are quality commercial elevators that are just like any other; once they are installed, they run exactly the same as any stick-built unit, but they just take a lot less time to install and they aren’t stopped by a little cold weather, snow, or ice.

The developer, building owner or designer of the project containing an old stick built elevator will just simply have to wait for the thaw to finish the job, where the modular elevator has been completed and will be in place and ready to go in a matter of weeks. Keep this in mind when you are considering a new elevator for a retrofit project or new construction.


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Factory Built Elevator- Early Planning Makes for Easier Planning

MBI WOM 2There is no doubt that modular elevators are the future for almost any building application, from modular buildings to traditional projects and from low to medium rise and beyond. Everyone knows that modular elevators are simply safer, faster, and smarter.

But they are also easier for everyone involved in the process. Designers, architects, builders, and elevator installers are all helped by the overall concept and tremendous flexibility provided with modular.  However, there is one thing you can do in the earliest phases of construction that can make converting to the modular solution even easier:  consider a modular elevator solution as early in the process as possible.

This is not to say that you can’t consider modular at anytime during the project from design to completion. You can certainly decide on modular late in the game and we are more than willing to help.  We have even been asked to provide a modular elevator solution after a building has been completed. The customer simply got tired of waiting for the stick-built elevator company to show up and get the job done. Turns out, in most cases we can design, engineer, manufacture, ship, and install a quality commercial elevator in less time than a traditional elevator company orders and receives all its components.

However, we would be fibbing if we didn’t tell you that it is just easier overall if you begin the project with modular in mind. The reason lies in the biggest benefit of a modular elevator: that it comes with the completed, manufactured hoistway as part of the package. There is no need to design and engineer CMU walls. Our modular elevator will come with its own specially-engineered, structurally sound 4X4 inch tube steel frame and is clad in one- or two-hour fire rated enclosure.  The structure can also accommodate any hurricane or earthquake zone.  And it can support some gravity loads such as floor joists or stair landings.  So it makes a lot of sense and saves a bit of money to just draw in a hole and leave the engineering to us.

In addition, our standard wall assembly is not as thick as a CMU shaft, so using our footprint in planning will free up a few inches of space to incorporate into the rest of your building.  Our equipment may have a slightly different layout than another manufacturer’s, so it makes sense to decide up front and avoid more design modifications down the road.

Wondering what a modular elevator is?  It’s a prefabricated shaft with the elevator car and other components assembled inside the shaft in our factory.  You can read more about them here.

We can also deliver a “naked” elevator with no drywall wrapping at all. These are used for glass elevators or ones that come with decorative metal hoistways usually for an atrium or mezzanine. This flexibility means that modular elevators can be an early part of the design process.

Many buildings have a clear and intentional look and feel.  A modular elevator is manufactured in a such a way that any cab interior or hoistway finish that would be specified in a stick-built elevator can be utilized in a modular elevator.  So whether you’re looking for durable or high-end, modern or traditional, a modular elevator can deliver it cost-effectively.

To keep the process simple and to give you the ability to put a modular solution in quickly, we provide CAD drawings that can be placed directly in your schematics.

So, when it comes to choosing the next elevator for an upcoming project, call us anytime.  But think about placing the elevator early, for best time-saving results. Click below to get a quick quote if you have a project in mind or call us for a formal quote.

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Cold Hands Means Elevator Delays

elevator installation is easy and fast. Fastest elevator installation.
Cold gray skies in Canada would have stopped a stick built elevator. Not true with modular.

No one wants to work in cold conditions. Turning a wrench in sub-zero temperatures isn’t really a problem on it’s own, but it is a problem when the wrench slips and you find yourself busting your knuckles. Something about cold weather makes hitting your hands feel worse than if the slip occurs on sunny, warm days. So, no one should be blamed for not wanting to work in cold weather. For the major elevator companies, working with cold hands is more than just a thing they hate, it is a thing they won’t deal with at all. In the “Job Conditions” clause of most major elevator purchase contracts you will find language that restricts elevator installation to a comfortable minimum of 55°F (13°C).

If the temperature in the hoistway or machine-room dips below that magical number, expect lunch pails and tools to be packed up and for the elevator service van to be leaving the property posthaste. For the traditional elevator company to install the elevator, you as the building owner must maintain a minimum of 55° in the work area or they simply won’t do the installation. This has lead to the common notion among GCs, owners, and investors that elevator technicians don’t watch the clock, they watch the thermometer!

Now to be completely fair, not working with cold hands is just a perk of optimal machine room operation temperatures. And as the dinosaurs of vertical transportation require movement up and down of the elevator car to do the very basic portions of the installation no heat means no installation on cold days.

As a general contractor or building owner the reason for delays is not important, it just seems that fighting the cold weather is a no win situation. Mother Nature has chosen sides and you have been left out in the cold.  This is despite demanding construction timetables that require the elevator to sometimes be installed before the heating and cooling systems are ready to go or when big gaping holes are still in exterior walls where windows and doors should be. This makes elevator installation a headache that rarely goes smoothly or on time. The pain point is real especially considering the annual average temperature for the United States (excluding Hawaii and Alaska) is 52.7°F.

However, to understand the full impact, according to NOAA and the National Centers for Environmental Information, Milwaukee, Wisconsin only has five months of the year when the average temperature is over 55°F.  The average annual temperature is only 47.7° and the average low is only above 55°F in June, July and August. Good luck getting a job done on time. This means that in many locations the building has to be heated and sealed before the elevator folks can even look in the hoistway.

But, temperature is only the tip of the iceberg as far as job conditions are concerned. There is a laundry list of conditions that would rival a pop star’s dressing room demands. Not that elevator installers wouldn’t appreciate only green M&Ms and bottled water distilled from glacier ice, but the list has more to do with the outmoded way elevators are constructed and installed. The elevator technicians themselves are not usually prima donnas, but there are several requirements that need to be met for them to get the job done due to the very nature of installing an old-fashioned, stick-built elevator. To ready the building for the elevator, in most circumstances you must provide:

  • An unloading area within 25 feet of the hoistway, always available during the entirety of the installation process (weeks and usually months).
  • A dry, enclosed and secure storage area. If you don’t have this, warranties can be null and void.
  • Power must be available before installation begins.
  • Get out your brooms, because you have to make sure that all work areas, the pit and the machine room floor are cleaned up for the installer.
  • Lighting for all the work areas is required.
  • Barricades to prevent a falling hazard must be made available and put in place.
  • Garbage cans must be constantly and readily available.
  • The hoistway has to be finished before the installer shows up with its own laundry list of bells and whistles to be attended to.

The list goes on and on and can create delay upon delay. But, what if there was a high-quality commercial elevator at a competitive price that did away with the above list, including restrictions on temperature?

A modular elevator arrives on a flatbed truck or multiple trucks depending on travel distance with the hoistway, elevator car, rails, wiring, and some roping completely done and your responsibilities are restricted to a pit and a flat slab for a modular machine room, if needed. Picture an elevator that can be put into place in a new or retrofit construction project before, during or after the building were being built, on either the inside or exterior of the structure. Then consider this elevator has a track record that includes it being placed and in use in weather extreme locales such as northern Manitoba, Canada or earthquake and hurricane zones in all sorts of buildings from elementary schools to hotels. A high-quality, commercial, modular elevator is available and can meet all the needs of every building. Eight week lead time. One week installation.

With Phoenix Modular Elevators temperatures don’t matter. They are built to exact specifications in a (temperature controlled) factory.  There is no need for hoistway barricades as the elevator arrives with the hoistway as part of the unit. Also the elevator is put into place in less than a day and the doors are already installed and locked until the unit is up and running. The bulk of the equipment comes installed, including rails and the elevator car. In most cases, everything else is packed in the hoistway, near where the final touches are to be installed, or in the modular machine room, if you need one. Lastly, modular is not restricted by design or distance of travel. Modular solves nearly every problem usually encountered by the old way of cobbling together an elevator.

If you are tired of all of the job conditions in your purchase agreement and long drawn out projects due to the elevator installation, contact us for a quick quote. We strive everyday to make elevators easy.

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A Blank Canvas – The Architect’s Dream

nypl.digitalcollections.b3afd5e1-27a1-4acf-e040-e00a180661f0.001.wArchitects often see setbacks worthy of quitting when trying to integrate the restrictions and requirements of GC’s into their artistic design.

One of history’s most important artists could have also let setbacks and failures crush him as a young painter. Giving up would have been more than understandable, as Paul Cézanne’s father saw no future in the world of art for his son and, ultimately, was instrumental in pushing his young son to study law and work in the bank he had founded instead of following his heart.

Further disappointment followed when Cézanne finally applied to enroll in the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris (one of the most prestigious schools) and he was rejected almost immediately. Likewise, in the various salons in Paris, time and again his work was refused. A lesser man’s dreams would have been extinguished and one could only imagine the pressure and anxiety that accompanied every stroke of the brush.  It’s no wonder he was quoted as saying, “It’s so fine and yet so terrible to stand in front of a blank canvas.”

The blank canvas to Cézanne was equally torture and pleasure, but none can dispute the energy he drew from it. It led to him being one of the most influential artists of his time. He was drawn to the blank canvas, simultaneously pushed and pursued by it.

In the “mother art” (architecture – according to Frank Lloyd Wright), architects too are drawn to the blank canvas. Read the rest of the article here!

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