Category Archives: Building Owners

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.

The efficiency and quality are increased because templates are used in the process and because the building is done on an assembly line. With all that consistency comes quality. Quality control inspections are completed more often and are done more easily as the building takes place, not after the building is constructed. So speed and quality increase simultaneously in the off-site construction industry.

More time, more funds.

What this can mean is that there are actually more time and more funds to have specialty items that can really separate your building project from others.

Working HandsWe see these benefits especially in the modular elevator business in the cab interiors. If you are dealing with a stick-built elevator from one of the big companies, they act as if you are pulling teeth is you ask for something outside of their preconceived plan. One of our customers made this point when he contacted us for pricing and to discuss his ideas. He told us that he was happy that someone was finally willing to talk with him about the elevator he wanted. He was not given the time of day by the standard elevator companies and they acted as if his ideas were impossible. The price they quoted him made sure it was impossible. We came to the rescue and made his dreams a reality.

Because we manufacture the elevator in our factory, we have the leeway to let clients express themselves through the design. Not only can we make a cab interior look like anything you want, we like doing it. We have skilled craftsmen on staff that can make your elevator look how you want, not just a choice of six laminates and standard interiors. If you are going to need several elevators over time, we will make the templates so future projects can be replicated to your specifications.

Now don’t misunderstand me.

We too can provide standard interior packages at three levels of features. They are all very nice and would fit in any building project; the difference is that we are not moored to just those three options, and we certainly won’t give you a blank stare or overprice something special so we don’t have to do it. It is because all the nuts and bolts of the construction are easily and efficiently manufactured that we have the time and resources to create something truly special and separate you from your competition.

If you have a project in mind that needs a special touch just click the link below for a quick quote!

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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.”

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.

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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.

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.

construction.

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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.

But we are not satisfied with standing still. Our goal for 2017 was an ambitious 40% growth over 2016 and we have surpassed that goal. But reaching that goal did not come easy. We knew we had to be able to have the space to manufacture elevators that to go well above fifteen stories and to be able to produce elevators in larger and larger numbers simultaneously for jobs that need dozens of elevators, not just one at a time.  That is why the new facility was a must. It allowed us continued growth by providing the space we needed and a production line that was more efficient than the old factory location.  Now all of the production is on one floor with a much smoother work flow.

For 2018, we are again projecting 40% growth and to help push us further down the road, we again are building new space and adding an additional concrete apron around the facility to make dropping off materials and components easier, more efficient, and faster.

The new building will be constructed and operational by March of 2018 and will house our maintenance team. They are the folks that keep all of the machinery of the factory up and running. The site will be complete with a repair bay for the fork trucks and other large equipment. This will greatly diminish down time, thus improving productivity. It will also give us the space we need to develop and maintain more production equipment.  We have great ideas to improve our methods and now we will have the space to make them a reality.

Lastly, we have plans to expand the line even further. We have not broken ground yet, but plans are on the drawing board! This is a very exciting time for Phoenix Modular Elevator and we are looking forward to a happy New Year indeed. We hope your’s is just as prosperous.

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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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Hotels + Modular = The Perfect Solution

Red Roof InnHotels built prior to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have a decided disadvantage when meeting the needs of potential customers. With only stairs to transport guests to upper floors, people with some disabilities have limited choice of the rooms they can occupy. It also means that people who do not want to carry luggage up a flight of stairs may seek other accommodations.

This issue  will likely grow. With the graying of America, the number of disabled persons will continue to increase from the 57 million current reported by the US Census Bureau. That is a whole lot of people that a hotel without an elevator may not be serving well, or at all.

Since the passage of the ADA in 1990, it has become an expectation that access will be provided. However, many older hotels are not accessible beyond the first floor, and although it is perfectly legal for older hotels to be grandfathered in and avoid ADA requirements, it may not make for the best customer experience. This can also lead to a lower rate per room for higher floors. To combat this problem, one hotelier was able to meet his patrons needs by placing a modular elevator on the exterior of the existing structure.

An ancillary benefit of the modular elevator addition is that employees were no longer lugging heavy laundry carts and other items up and down stairs. The elevator increased staff productivity and morale while also reducing the potential for work-related accidents and injuries. It was a win for the hotel, not only because it opened new possibilities for customer and employees, but because the installation was easy and fast.

For a commercial-quality modular solution, another benefit is time. A hotel does not have to close its doors for an extended period of time during installation, as a modular elevator is lowered into place by a crane in under half a day, and installation can be completed in a week.

The end result is a more profitable, safer hotel that provided access to more potential customers and a way for workers to be more efficient and productive.

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