Category Archives: Contractors

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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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.

If you want to help us meet our goals and have a project in mind just click the button below!


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Pour the Perfect Modular Pit Easily

Anchor Bolts Level NutsOne of the biggest concerns that customers have is regarding the pit. Every elevator needs one, including your new modular elevator. You want to make sure you do everything right for when the elevator arrives, and this article will give you some tips to make it easy. By taking some time now, you can avoid issues and problems down the road.

On the surface, it seems easy enough.  Dig and pour a concrete pit for the hoistway, with cast-in-place anchor bolts in the corners. But, when you mix in the need to engineer the pit foundation and add reinforcements based on the elevator’s pit reactions, all the while accounting for the job site’s soil conditions and your local code requirements, it can seem more daunting. Keep in mind though, we supply the necessary information, plans, and even a template (if requested) to help out.

So, to put everyone’s mind at ease, let’s cover the basics on not only the pit but also the foundation for the modular machine room, if your project is going that route. You can also find this info on our website for easier access later.

  1. Typical pits have 8” thick walls and 12” thick floors. However, always consult your pit layout drawings for precise measurements for your specific job.
  2. If you have a sump hole, cover it with a non-combustible material, typically a sheet of metal.
  3. Pour a concrete slab for the modular machine room, if ordered. Purchase epoxy anchors to bolt it to the foundation after it is set. If the machine room is not adjacent to the hoistway, piping and electrical must be run underground or overhead. Coordinate with PME and the installer to determine any building preparations needed to accommodate this.
  4. Once the pit has been poured and the anchor bolts are in place download this Pit Drawing Form. Fill out all the blanks with exact measurements and make sure to include the project name at the top. Email the form to us. With this completed form the holes on our hoistway for the anchors will be as accurate as possible.

More detail and tips include the following:

Picture8Pit Depth – You only want to pour the pit once so, pay close attention to these instructions. The pit should be exactly 4’ deep, measured from top of finished floor to pit floor. Our tower’s legs are 3’11” long, made to sit an inch off the pit floor, with grout underneath. This allows for some adjustment if the pit floor isn’t perfect. The adjustments are done by putting a ¾” thick leveling nut and washer on the anchor bolts before lowering the tower down. Adjust the nuts as needed to plumb and level the tower. Install washers and nuts on top of the tower base plates and tighten. Grout below the base plates.

What do you do if the pit is too deep? The base plates can sit more than 1” off the floor, but if the anchor bolts are too short as a result of the extra depth, extra in-field welding will be required to produce a stable connection.

Err on the long side on the anchor bolts. They should protrude a minimum of 3.5” from the pit floor, but making them a few inches longer poses no problem with installation and gives you breathing room if the pit is too deep.

(On the other end of the spectrum) Pit too shallow: If minor, this could require grinding away a bit of concrete around the anchor bolt. If major, the pit might have to be re-poured. Avoid this at all costs! Too deep is better than too shallow!

Pit.jpgLength and Width – The pit should be the out-to-out steel dimensions plus 1” on all sides for clearance when sliding the tower into the pit. Note that the enclosure of the elevator shaft stops at the top of the pit. If needed or wanted, for above-ground pits, we can extend that enclosure down further. If the pit is too big, it’s not a big deal. However, you’ll need to make sure it’s properly flashed to keep out water and fire caulked to maintain the fire resistance of the hoistway.

Pit too small: Oops, you’re going to have to tear out some concrete. No easy fix for that.

Wall protuberances – The tower slides in right along the walls on its way to the pit floor, so it will catch on any protrusions. Once it’s set, there are openings in the structural framing that piping can be run through. Before lowering the elevator, terminate any penetrations such as PVC liner or piping at the pit wall. Run any piping/electrical after the tower is set. Note that the diagonal rods are for stabilization while uprighting the tower and may be removed after bolting the tower down, if they’re in the way.

Sump hole in corner – The base plates sit in the 4 corners and need a solid surface to rest on. If your pit has a sump hole, make sure it’s at least 12” from any corner.

Pit 2Anchor Bolts – When you pour the pit, anchor bolt placement is very important for elevator installation as this directly effects where the modular elevator will be placed. Please make sure the distance of the bolts from building is right and make sure to include the building finishes when calculating where to place the “front” anchor bolts. Too far away can be bridged with flooring, drywall, and flashing. Too close means reworking of the anchorage.

Check Please – Check, check and check again! Measure three times. Check your prints twice. Cross square them. This is critical. Incorrect placement may require torching out the base plate holes, moving anchors, or other work to provide alternative anchorage. If you know in advance that the placement is slightly off, we can widen the base plate holes in the factory, which is easier than doing it in the field. We can also supply an anchor bolt template to make bolt placement a little easier and more accurate.

Other Pit Info – If the lowest stop is above grade, alternative construction can be used for the pit. The pit floor can be poured as a slab and then walled in afterwards with CMU. Also, the elevator shaft can be finished down to the pit level to provide the pit “walls.” Note that you should at least have a short stem wall to keep water out of the pit area.

Lastly, we want this to be a success for you. If you have any questions at all, contact our team. Our engineer, Tim House, is always ready and willing to help. Feel free to call or email him at Here is a video that walks you through the process of installation. You may find it helpful.

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All Aboard – Modular Elevators

Train in DurangoThere was a time when black, steam powered locomotives would huff and puff into the station, take on water and coal, load up with cargo and passengers and the conductor would yell, “All aboard!” It signified the train was leaving the station and if you weren’t on the train and ready to go, you would be left behind in a cloud of steam, smoke, and coal dust.  The analogy has been used countless times when writing about new innovation and being a part of a movement forward or advances in technology.  You don’t want to miss the train and be left behind.

See the future of elevators here. 

Solving Problems with Prefab Hoistways

Urban Life 2Recently, we have been producing prefab hoistways for a major elevator manufacturer in the United States. These contain no installed elevator, just the hoistway. The company we are working with sees the benefits of faster installation, the safety of the installation, flexibility in design, and higher quality that we offer as opposed to waiting around for a stick-built shaft.

It is easy to see why: having a completed hoistway craned into place means saving time and that means saving money. But having a prefab hoistway means more than just fast installation. Here is a list of reasons why every hoistway should be a prefab….Click here for the rest!

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