Category Archives: Building Owners

Here’s Looking at Elevators Kid

When telling others about elevators for a particular project, the general assumption is that the elevator choice is made extremely early in the process by an architect or building owner. Once that decision is made it is inextricably chiseled into a block of granite. There is no erasing the choice or blotting it from the stone regardless of other possibilities. Minds are made up. After all the first thing that usually goes up in a building project is the hoistway and there it sits as a monolith of certitude. It stands as evidence that once a judgement is rendered, the gavel is dropped and it is irreversible.

However, recently in a conversation, that notion was challenged by a purchaser of one of our Phoenix Modular Elevators. The building owner told us plainly and without blinking that changing his mind was not a big deal and saving time, effort and possibly cash, was much more important than revising the plans or ruffling feathers. He shared he had the same opinion regardless of the building product needed or process involved, making changes is a part of every project and until the foundation is poured anything can and often does change.

He should know what he is talking about. He was over sold on the elevator portion of a project with just a couple days before ground was officially broken. The elevator company was insisting on a traction elevator for a three stop application, with less than twenty feet of overall travel. Shocking! At least as shocking as gambling in Casablanca (by the way you are either a movie buff or real old if you got the Casablanca reference, I am both). My favorite scene below!!!

But then he came upon our website and things changed.

The building owner completed a short easy Quick Quote form, at our website and found out the pricing was competitive, but the installation would shave weeks off the total project time. The order was immediately canceled with the other elevator company and I’m sure they were thinking of all the website in all the world he stumbles on to Phoenix Modular Elevator’s. This was quickly followed by a change request to the architect, the elevator was ordered from us, engineering was completed, the unit was manufactured, set up in half a day and the elevator was started up in a week. It then, as promised, went through inspection on time.

Everyone was happy with the process, price and responsiveness of the Phoenix Modular Elevator team and needless to say it was the “beginning of a beautiful relationship!” (another Casablanca quote).

Elevator Installation Crippling Uncle Sam

If you think elevators are needed in a two story building, then you will definitely see the need for them in a floating city. The USS Gerald R. Ford is a 12.9 billion dollar, 25 deck, 250 foot from keel to mainmast aircraft carrier with contingent of 6000+ sailors and aircrew; literally making it a floating city. It is one of the biggest and costliest warship ever built. This massive behemoth even has 11 elevators for moving ammo up and down. But there is one big problem.

170408-N-WZ792-198 NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (April 8, 2017) The future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) underway on its own power for the first time. The first-of-class ship — the first new U.S. aircraft carrier design in 40 years — will spend several days conducting builder’s sea trials, a comprehensive test of many of the ship’s key systems and technologies. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni/Released)

Nine of the eleven elevators don’t work! Some are not even installed. Talk about dead in the water.

During its shakedown phase (not to be confused with a Shakedown Cruise, the song ruined that phrase forever) even this cutting edge war machine was having some fits and starts.

At first, the hope was to complete elevator installation and testing of all 11 before the Ford was delivered with at least half of the elevators certified for operation. Instead, according to Bloomberg News,

“‘[T]he vessel won’t have all the elevators installed — much less functioning’ According to Luria, a 20-year Navy surface warfare officer whose served on two aircraft carriers and as shore maintenance coordinator for a third. ‘Essentially, the ship can’t deploy,’ Luria said. ‘It can’t carry ammunition.’ She said went on to say that the elevators don’t meet code.

If only the Navy knew about modular elevators they wouldn’t be left high and dry! Typically, our elevators are manufactured in eight weeks once the drawings are approved and they install in one week. Of course we don’t really have our sea legs and the capacity is probably well outside of our capabilities. Ammo is extremely heavy. But, we are as patriotic as the next company so we would be willing to come aboard and give it a try.

All kidding aside the real point is that elevators are complex pieces of equipment and unless you are putting one in a nuclear aircraft carrier it is usually the largest moving object in a building. So we have real empathy for the folks in the Navy and salute their efforts for our country! And when you need an elevator that installs in a week (not in an aircraft carrier), consult our team of experts we won’t steer you wrong.

But, here is one last suggestion. We know it is bad luck to rename a ship once christened but maybe the Navy should consider renaming this one Edsel instead of Ford.

Click here for the whole Bloomberg Article.

No Elevator Installation Needed

The easiest way to avoid elevator installation in a multi-story building is to not have an elevator. That was the old way of thinking. Now you can have an elevator with no installation at all through modular elevators.

Imagine an elevator with no installation just start up? We can do it at Phoenix Modular Elevator.

This modular way of building is becoming more and more popular because it is faster and safer than traditional elevator installation, largely due to the fact that the installation of the elevator is completed in a factory, under factory controls with significantly more efficiency. But before you pop the champagne corks over no more elevator installations, let’s be clear about what we are talking about.

There are two distinct steps of getting any elevator installed and running in a building; the installation of the components and then starting up the elevator. In the traditional stick- built elevator, the hoistway is constructed and then sits until power is turned on in the building. Then, an elevator technician comes in and, one piece at a time, installs the entire elevator in the enclosed hoistway. This is time consuming and dangerous. Falls through open hoistway openings, lugging around heavy rails and building an elevator car in a cramped hoistway are just the tip of the hazardous iceberg for this outmoded type of construction. Once the elevator car and a set of rails is installed with all the wiring, the elevator contractor gets the elevator running, makes adjustments,, etc.

Why we are different.

With modular elevators, we take a large part of the installation inside a factory. First, we build a fire-rated and building code-compliant elevator hoistway, regardless of seismic or hurricane zone. Then comes the installation of all of the elevator components inside the hoistway in the controlled environment of a factory. This means the high-quality elevator arrives on a truck, ready to be hoisted into place with the rails and cars already installed and perfectly aligned every time. The doors are already hung and all of the hall calls, buttons and wiring are complete. The cab is finished in any style and pre-installed, other than the flooring. In a hydraulic elevator, the jacks are even in place when the travel distance works out for an above-ground option. When travel distance is higher than allowable for above-ground jacks, the in-ground jack arrives at the time of the placement and the elevator is completely ready to receive the jack. In a Phoenix Modular Elevator – traction model, the elevator is partially pre-roped, saving time and effort as well.

So, there is much less installation once the elevator is on site because the components are already in place inside the hoistway. The elevator is already literally pre-installed.

That does not mean there’s nothing to do.

First, when the elevator arrives on site, the building (hoistway with elevator components) has to be leveled and plumbed when put into place. As I am typing this, I can feel your blood pressure starting to rise. Deep breath. Relax. Phoenix Modular Elevator has a placement team that goes out with every job and will be there to make sure everything has arrived as promised and will take charge to make sure the hoistway is placed on the pre-set anchor bolts. We will bolt it down, making it ready for the startup. If an in-ground jack is part of the plan, we will work with the elevator technician of your choice or one we have agreed on to put the jack in the ground. Simple. If it is a traction model, all of the roping is already contained in the hoistway. We will make sure they are put into place with the elevator technician.

Startup

The startup is where the elevator technician really gets going because there are some things that have to be done for the elevator to be started up (not installed). The technician or mechanic will make sure that the following is completed:

  • Run the wiring to the controller. They are already run to the rest of the elevator.
  • Make sure the jacks are plumb and grouted in place.
  • Add hydraulic oil.
  • Remove all shipping brackets other than those under the elevator car.
  • Turn the elevator on and move the car up.
  • Check for leaks.
  • Take off the shipping brackets under the elevator car.
  • Lower the car and check for leaks.
  • Replace packing.
  • Adjust the elevator to proper floor levels.

That is the basic procedure for a modular hydraulic elevator, but here is a video to assist you with more details.

For a traction elevator, the process is largely the same other than taking the elevator ropes that are in the hoistway and running those as needed. Once they are run properly, the start up should be like any other elevator.

Lastly, the elevator technician will make sure the inspection is scheduled and fulfill the punch list items.

In the next blog, post we will run through what the general contractor or building owner should expect when the modular elevator arrives on site.

Limits to the MRL Hydro

By Russ Ward, PME Marketing & Tim House, PME Engineer

MRL hydraulic elevators are all the rage right now and for good reason. As the name implies, there is no additional machine room space needed, as it is built into the hoistway, so there is more square footage available for other things in the building, at least in theory. That point is debatable, as some will argue this claim! But with all the advantages of MRL hydro, there is a known limiting factor that should be recognized and accounted for at this time; hydraulic fluid viscosity.

The issue regarding viscosity is there could be significant fluid cooling problems with MRL hydros. Basically, as the elevator travels up and down, the oil heats up as it moves through the pipe due to friction, and when the hydraulic fluid or oil heats up, the life-blood of the system can fail. The oil just thins out when operated above required temperature levels, much like oil does when your car overheats and gets too thin, especially for a sustained period of time.

This breakdown, or altered viscosity, creates several real problems that can harm your elevator or negatively influence the way it operates. It can cause leaks in seals, the elevator can have difficulty leveling and even wear out major components faster than they should. In addition, the lifespan of the hydraulic fluid itself can be shortened, meaning it will need to be replaced more often, creating increased costs for operation.

The reason MRL hydraulic elevators can sometimes run with fluid at a higher temperature is due to several factors:

First, the main problem is that air flow is the primary way that the elevator hydraulic tank (normally in the machine room) is cooled down. The oil flows in when the elevator is not in use, especially if parked at a lower floor. As it sits there, the oil in the tank is cooled by the surrounding air and air flow. That is why there are significant rules and regulations regarding machine room temps and one of the reasons that objects must be kept clear of the tank.

Some MRL elevators, with the elevator tank in the wall of the hoistway, will have a grate covering the area where the tank is sitting so when the elevator goes swooshing up and down, the air flow created will cool the oil. But not all are designed that way and sometimes codes prohibit the open area.

The second issue is that the motor placement inside the tank can be problematic. Again, in a normal hydraulic elevator tank, you find a submersible motor, pump valves and pipes. The key object and one that generates significant heat is the submersible motor. In the standard configuration, it rests near the bottom fully covered in hydraulic fluid.

In some of the MRL models, to save room, the tank is not horizontal but vertical and, as a result, as the jack goes up and fluid leaves the tank, the motor can be exposed to air without the benefit of being fully submerged. This can cause additional heat in the system. As a result, some companies restrict the total travel distance in MRL hydros. To combat this, others have put the hydraulic tank in the floor of the pit, but that has its own set of difficulties. Air flow can be restricted, depending on where it is placed, and if the elevator breaks down with the car at the bottom of the pit, it may be hard to get to a potential problem area.

Another problem spot to be considered is that the limited space in the hoistway or pit can lead to cutting down the power unit. This can especially be trouble for units with a total rise beyond 20 feet or more. By trying to save space, the power unit can be too small, creating more work and more heat generation.

All of these issues are magnified when the total travel distance is increased and when the elevator is in high use for very lengthy periods of time. A good example of this is a hotel that has very specific high traffic periods, especially if the hotel is four or more stories. With all the ups and downs, the oil is constantly moving and staying too warm for operation; the precious life-blood (hydraulic fluid) never really gets to sit in the tank and cool down. Also, because the hydraulic fluid is going up so high (in a four stop elevator), most of the oil can be in the jacks, possibly exposing the motor; so, over a long period of time, motor failure or jack seals may be compromised.

Because of the above, until there is a proven track record regarding MRL hydraulic units use at peak periods, we recommend caution when buying an MRL hydro beyond 24′ of total travel. Make sure you ask your elevator representative very specific questions to ensure a long elevator life.

Businesses have always been lectured about the importance of being on the cutting edge of technology, and MRL hydraulic units for longer total travel distances with high levels of peak use are just that. Just be cautious and don’t find yourself on the bleeding edge instead of the cutting edge!

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? Find out the secret elevator companies want to keep hidden.

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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. Get the straight story on modular here!! 
  
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.

Find out what these tougher codes mean to you. 

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

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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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