Category Archives: Building Owners

Are All Elevator Companies Equally Bad?

Are all elevator companies equally bad? This is a question posed in a forum on UrbanToronto.ca in the Design and Architectural Style section. For too many of the commentators in the blog, the answer is an unfortunate yes. Each respondent complained about the state of the elevator industry when it comes to repairs, but none really had the right explanation. It is true there is a bit of a shortage of elevator techs, but that is not the core issue regarding poor repairs. In other words, a technician properly trained can easily tackle most elevator problems, but what if there was something built into how we buy elevators in the first place that totally did away with any incentive to get the job done right?  Here is the first horror story from the blog that was posted by Harry_Fine. It spells out a huge issue in the elevator industry and the reason for the bad rep. It is completely accurate other than the name of the elevator company in question. I took it out because all big elevators companies are largely one in the same:   

“I live in a new downtown condo, won’t mention the name at the moment so as not to stigmatize it. It’s a small building about a dozen floors. It’s been occupied for about 18 months. The elevators are XXXXXXXXXXXX (a big elevator company that will go unnamed) and are awful in terms of reliability. Perhaps not the elevator per se, but when they break, they are down for days. Parts need to be flown in, perhaps from Germany. Our condo board tells us that only they (the big elevator company) can fix their elevators, that they don’t supply parts to third party elevator companies, they keep it all in-house to create a monopoly.

Last year shortly after the building opened, one car was down for 2 weeks. We only have 2 cars. With our new-building move-ins, life was hell.

Now a year later, since Thursday, none of the buttons on the floors work, you press the button and light goes on, you take your finger off and light goes off. So to get by they put it on automatic service opening on every floor 24/7 until it’s fixed. Usually wait is about 7 minutes. Big elevator company seems either unable to fix it or in no big hurry.

On one of the cars we’ve had the door close button not functioning. They have been in several times. Unable to fix it. It’s been broken for 6 months. 

Wondering if people here have similar experiences and have found a way not to be held hostage by these elevator companies?”

Believe it or not, Mr. Fine identified the biggest problem in the last sentence of the first paragraph. The condo board’s hands are tied. When the building was in the early planning stages, the developer of the property or owner was sold on an elevator from a big company (you know them, I won’t name them).  They got a cheap price and likely didn’t double check; they just took the lowest bid. Buried in the plethora of drawings, specs and forms was a clause stating proprietary parts were allowed, hence the reason for the cheap price. 

Just to explain, proprietary is a monopoly machine and the reason for all the pain because proprietary simply means that only one company can work on the unit because they have the special tools and codes to fix problems if they occur. There is no competition, no other company to call and most importantly, there is no way out. Like the blood oath made to a Mafia Don, once you are in, you are in. Yes, you can sue them, stamp your feet and hold your breath, but one of those strategies will have as much likelihood of helping as the other. Ultimately, if you go that route, the result will be being passed out, with flat arches and a lighter pocketbook, due to legal fees.

That is because big elevator companies have been playing the game much longer than any building owner and so they know the wiggle words and loopholes in elevator contracts better than anyone. After all, they are ones who write them. Once a general contractor, building owner or architect signs off on the proprietary units, their hooks are in for the life of the elevator, or 25+ years. That is why big elevator will forgo the up-front profit for long-term gain for them and misery for everyone else.  This is why there is no rush on providing service, no rush on getting parts flown in from wherever and no worry about keeping a unit running like it should. What are you going to do?   

To keep out of proprietary units, you have to start when the building is on the drawing board. Keep in mind that you do not have to go with units filled with proprietary parts at all! But, if you opt for non-proprietary, watch out! Big elevator companies have been known to sneak them in anyway. They understand that often the projects they are included in are significantly removed from the end user and owner of the property. Just like in the case of the condo in question, the current owners did not make the decision to go with proprietary parts and it would be practically impossible to find out who made that decision or if a decision were made at all. 

Another annoyance is that once the elevator with proprietary parts is chosen, the elevator company gets to call all the shots, especially when it comes to prices of service. Many of the service agreements they slide across the table for signature are lopsided and filled with automatic renewals and annual price increases.

And that leads to the final question of the blog: “Wondering if people here have similar experiences and have found a way not to be held hostage by these elevator companies?” The answer would more than likely be no. In some cases, fighting your way out of a contract will work. However, it literally took a court order from a federal judge to get the tools from a big elevator company in a county in Pennsylvania.  But that win is the exception, not the rule. Your best bet is to not move into a building or buy a condo or other building that contains an elevator with proprietary parts in the first place. Yes, they are that bad. Also, ask to see the repair schedules and how often the elevators are down. The person selling the premises should not hesitate in allowing you to see the records. If they refuse…move on. 

Lastly, and you knew it was coming, the sales pitch. Phoenix Modular Elevator always provides non-proprietary parts. They are always high-quality and, in most cases, the very same parts you find in any elevator. Dirty little secret…all elevator companies mostly use the very same parts. Any certified technician can fix our elevators so you can shop for prices and if a poor job is done, you won’t go begging for relief. You can fire the company and look for a better one. I know that doesn’t help the current complaint very much, but hopefully this will serve as a warning to shopped elevators for ones with non-proprietary parts at the top of the list. 

If you are in the market for a new elevator click the link below for a fast free estimate. Just some key information or approximate guesses and you can find out what a commercial quality elevator would cost.   

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Definition and Benefits of Modular

Pleasant PrairieWhen it comes to blogging, usually you use stories or anecdotes to get your point across. It tends to stick better with the reader if they can identify with the examples given.  People tend to engage and respond more favorably if they can feel a connection. But, sometimes you have to just state the facts and tell people point by point what you are trying to say.  That is the case with this blog post. No fluff, no mother-in-law stories, no tragic tales of elevator builds gone wrong or funny anecdotes;  just the truth about modular building and why it is the fastest-growing and best way to build any project.  
Keep in mind that I am talking about modular in general and not specifically elevators. However, you will see that each point applies to modular elevators as well as all other components that make up a building. With all that said, here we go…a definition and points that clearly show why modular is the future.
    
First, modular construction is defined by the Modular Building Institute as, “A process in which a building is constructed off-site, under controlled plant conditions, using the same materials and designing to the same codes and standards as conventionally built facilities – but in about half the time.  The buildings are produced in ‘modules’ that, when put together on site, reflect the identical design intent and specifications of the most sophisticated site-built facility – without compromise.” Click here for more info. In a nutshell, modular is components that are built off-site exactly as the customer requests.  The various components or units are almost anything from bathroom pods to classrooms, kitchens to offices, and let’s not forget, elevators.
Second, here we go with the advantages of modular in no particular order – simple and straight forward:

1. Faster 

  • Reduce Your Construction Schedule
    When a project starts moving forward with traditional construction, it means when site prep is happening, not much else takes place. With modular construction, the building starts at the same time or even earlier if needed. The result is projects can be completed 30% to 50% faster than the old-fashioned way of building. While the other guys are waiting for concrete to dry, modular is working on the structures.
  • No Weather Delays
    With the bulk of the construction taking place in a factory, the weather doesn’t matter. When traditional companies are bogged down by rain or cold, we are building. This means the project is done faster and buildings are occupied sooner, creating a faster return on investment.
  • No Missing Tools or Materials
    This may seem minor, but in other businesses, it is called shrink-shoplifted or “misplaced” items that cost time and money. In the construction business, these stolen items can be expensive tools or products crucial to project completion. Somehow, with site-built construction, things grow legs and walk off. If you ever wonder why old-fashioned stick-built elevator contracts call for a lockable area, this is why. Too much stuff just disappears, causing costly time delays.

2. Reduced Costs

  • Lower Labor & Operational Costs
    Lower labor and operational costs occur simply because it is a shorter project timeline and less time at the job site.  Less time on the site reduces injuries and time off due to those injuries, liability, administrative costs and some payroll. Shorter construction time also induces lower overhead costs and provides for earlier opening of the new facilities, generating higher rate of return on the investment.
  • Standardization
    Standardization of the building process reduces costs in procurement and materials. Purchasing large lots of materials for multiple projects is possible, giving more buying power. Also, why pay for the same plans over and over again when you can easily duplicate plans for higher capitol efficiency once a design is complete? Component lists are the same in large part, so repetitive functions are reduced.
  • Less Interruption
    Off-site module construction does not interrupt or slow down other trades or site prep work. With elevators, for instance, we know when the elevator tech is on site, things tend to grind to a halt for everyone else. This is not the case with modular building.

 3. Safety Benefits

  • Reduced Risk – Fewer Hours
    Modular is safer due to reduced risks regarding in-plant operations versus site construction. There are fewer onsite OSHA exposure hours and smaller crew sizes.
  • Better Conditions
    The conditions for building are much safer in an enclosed factory rather than a job site. The factory floor is always level, and not compromised by rain or ice. Overhead cranes are used in modular building, whereas manual lifting is a common practice onsite. The factory environment allows for improving the building system to incorporate more safety.
  • Testing & Corrections
    The modular process is more conducive to testing and correction of vital components before shipping. Daily, the manufacturer of modular components is looking for safer ways of building. For instance, we rotate our elevator hoistways so there is no lifting of drywall, resulting in fewer strained backs.

4. Fewer Resource Requirements

  • Reduced Waste
    Modular production systems and factory construction conditions reduce material waste. Waste is reduced as the parts of assembly are simplified and ordered as close to used dimensions as possible. Also, when there is waste, it is easily sorted and recycled. There are no unexplained piles of debris in a factory, but these are always present at a traditional building site.
  • Greener
    There is less on-site pollution, as the bulk of construction is moved to a controlled environment. This results in less noise pollution, air pollution and dust. Building materials are protected from the elements, eliminating ruined materials due to rain or snow.  Smaller field crews also means less travel to and from the job site.
  • Smaller Building Area
    Less on-site space is required because systems are assembled in factories. Even when considering a staging area, it often smaller than a conventional construction site and occupied for a shorter time.

5. Higher Quality

  • Higher Quality Inspections
    The inspections take place indoors in a factory setting where access is easier. They take place in a closed environment where cold, snow or rain does not keep the inspector from looking at the process and building closely. Modular builders are accustomed to inspectors and they can be easily accommodated.
  • Highly trained and experienced technicians
    The workforce in a modular factory is well-trained for the job they are doing. Welders weld, drywallers drywall and carpenters drive nails. They are well-trained in the process and procedure of their unique position. Each job is more specialized than you would find with onsite construction. This leads to consistency of the product.

From the list above, it is easy to see that modular is the future of construction. If you would like to find out more about modular building or have an elevator project you would like a quote for, click the button below.

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Hurricanes Toughest Building Codes

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When it comes to devastating storms in the United States, no place is more often the target of hurricanes than the Sunshine State – Florida. According to National Hurricane Center data, from just 1995 to 2017 the number of hurricanes, tropical storms and tropical depressions that have passed through some portion of Florida equals a stunning total of 42. The next closest state on the list is North Carolina with 27 and finishing third is Texas with 22.

The Florida hurricanes since 1995 includes Opal – 1995, Charley – 2004, Ivan – 2004, Jeanne – 2004, Dennis – 2005, Wilma – 2017 and now Michael a category 4 storm beating up the panhandle.

As a result of the constant barrage of traumatic storms, building codes of Florida have continually been fortified since 1998. It was in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew and all the damage left behind created by the storm that compelled the state to complete and pass their very first building code in 1998. The code became effective in March of 2002 and has been tweaked many times since.

It has led Florida to being deemed as having the strictest building codes in the United States and for good reason. Due to the plethora of storms and all the damage they do, there is a very big cost to the economy that can be quite hefty. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the expected annual damage cost to the United States due to hurricanes overall is currently about $28 billion. “Florida accounts for the largest share of expected damage at 55 percent in the agency’s calculations.” That is a pretty big chunk of change in just storm damage so Florida is not messing around.

Their serious approach seems to be paying off, too. According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, after Hurricane Irma ripped through the state in 2017,  because approximately 80 percent of homes in Irma’s path had been built after the State’s new and improved construction codes; destruction, and therefore costs, were significantly less. Likewise the officials learned from Hurricane Charley in 2004 that houses built after the mid-90s with the improved codes better withstood the winds.

The good news is that when it comes to elevators, Phoenix Modular Elevator understands local codes (even in Florida) and our elevators can be engineered to meet any building codes especially when it comes to wind concerns. Not only does our standard hurricane area model come with a rating that can withstand a 150 mph, but we also can upgrade modular elevators to withstand 180 mph winds. It is even possible to make them more durable if the rules ever go beyond that. The same can be said about earthquakes as well. Our elevators find homes from Florida to California, Alaska to New York.

If you would like more info or have a project in mind in an area prone to hurricanes click below.

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Respect the Code – Elevator Code Bible

Code BookI bristle at calling any book, “The Bible”. Not necessarily for the notion that something is authoritative and has the last word in matters of the law, but because it can reduce the Bible to a bunch of codes and rules which is not the case. But when it comes to elevators, there is an actual bible (grandma I hope you noticed the small “b”). That bible is the American Society of Mechanical Engineers – Codes and Standards A17 and CSA B44 for our Canadian friends.

The primary purpose for this code is clearly stated by Norman B. Martin, a proponent of the ASME Codes and Standards and highly respected Chief Elevator Inspector for the state of Ohio. He said the following:

“I think the ASME Codes and Standards committees’ most important work is to be able to provide consistency throughout the nation and through North America…An elevator is an elevator and if you build an elevator in California, you should be able to sell it in Ohio, and if you build it in Ohio, you should be able to sell it in Ontario. As such, I think the consistency across the board with the North American standards has allowed that to occur; provide a base level of safety, and allow each jurisdiction to be able to enforce it properly.” Link

His point is that without ASME standards: chaos would reign, safe and unsafe would mix like Labs and Poodles, confusion would hurt commerce, and the safety of the elevator-riding public could be compromised. Truer words have ne’er been spoken.

But what happens when an inspector is unfamiliar with the code or a state or other government entity tries to make changes to elevator standards without directly consulting ASME first? Nothing good and usually problems, delays and compromise.

We recently ran into a rare rogue inspector on a project, that will remain nameless for obvious reasons, where he insisted that the elevator pit light had to be fixed to the pit wall. Of course our lead engineer (with over 20 years of elevator experience) pointed to the applicable code, but that wasn’t good enough and the entire project was put on hold while we awaited more information. Ultimately, we were proven right of course. Read the info from ASME here! But the time and frustration on our part and the customer’s part was real.

When it comes to some states and other governmental agencies, we are seeing new subsets of existing codes, usually stemming from those agencies trying to flex some bureaucratic muscle or divas with a wish list of unrealistic expectations that often conflict with the wisdom of ASME.

A case that illustrates this clearly was one that involved handrail location in an elevator car. The inspector and the “new” code insisted on a certain location for handrail placement, but they were utterly wrong. And when I say utterly, I mean it. The location the inspector and code was touting and requiring was in direct violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ASME and the elevator code of the state the project was located in. Again I will refrain from besmirching the inspector or the team that came up with the aberrant code, but again they would not budge. It left us with a true Hobson’s choice. We could either violate ADA, ASME, and state code or not have the elevator pass inspection. No choice indeed. We opted to civilly argue our case to the powers that be, hoping for wiser heads to prevail. Again weeks passed as did dozens of emails. After all the evidence was gathered, we once again prevailed. But our additional investment of time, emails, and research could not be recouped despite being proven right.

So what does this ultimately mean? It means that the ASME code is the bible for elevators and more. After all, they have been at the code and standards creation business since 1884 and have been writing elevator codes since 1921. They don’t just “kind of” know their business; they have literally written the book. Violation of those codes, for lack of better words, is a sin that should not be engaged in. That is why every elevator we produce meets or exceeds ASME – A17 and CSA B44 codes and always will. After all modular is not just faster, but also higher in quality and safety.

If you have a project in mind that requires an elevator, click the button below! We would love to give you a numb nail number.

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Quality Craftsman – Modular Building

Working woodOne of the knocks that seems to never go away when discussing modular construction is that a modular building is always cookie cutter, the same boring products cut out of the same boring mold. In some people’s thinking, because there is consistency in manufacturing, quality craftsmanship seems to be elusive or nonexistent.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As a matter of fact, the opposite is true. Let’s start with the fact that if a building is manufactured, not built one block or stick at a time, overall quality is higher and construction is faster. There are no weather delays nor delays due to one trade waiting on another. With modular, a four-story hotel can be ready to open six months after the foundation is poured. A similar stick-built can take a year to 16 months or longer. Efficiency is bumped up and costly mistakes are reduced with modular construction. There is less waste due to planned manufacturing.

Find out about our quality here!!! 

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Work Force Crunch Making Modular More Attractive

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.”

Find out how to count the whole costs here! 

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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.

Click here for facts you can’t ignore! 

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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.

Modular elevators are the solution to the weather problems. Click here for the article! 

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New Year, New Growth for PME

Move to Finish 4In this past year, Phoenix Modular Elevator has made tremendous strides forward in its effort to provide an alternative to stick built elevators that is also faster and easier to install. We have moved to a brand new facility that has improved our quality and speed, with elevators flying through our production process.

We have also added more team members that do everything from welding and drywall to improving the manufacturing process. As a result, we remain the fastest installing commercial, quality elevator available, with the shortest lead time (eight weeks if it’s standard). Due to our unique design of the hoistway and elevator components all in one, there is no better way to have a quality elevator installed in any construction project.

Find out about our growth and future! 

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