When it comes to elevators in multi-story construction projects, there is often significant and well earned moaning and groaning from general contractors as their past experiences have been fraught with problems. The elevator becomes a stumbling block due to delays for several reasons; weather, hoistway construction, availability of elevator parts, and lack of qualified elevator personnel have all contributed to a lengthy timeline for the entire project. At Phoenix Modular Elevator we shorten the process significantly, but there are still a lot of questions about the timeline and how we can make elevators easy. So, to demonstrate exactly how the process works, we are taking a typical project and following the timeline from start to finish.
The project we will be following is a typical 2 -stop elevator going into a private business and apartment complex. It is a machine roomless, holeless hydraulic elevator with fifteen feet of travel. The building owner wanted three walls with one-hour fire rating and one glass wall so the passengers could see outside to an ornate courtyard, with all stainless steel doors and entrances. Click here for the whole surprising timeline!
Hotels 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.
What is the difference in the two elevators pictured above? $100,000 and 30 weeks.
One of the most common questions we get asked is, “Will installing a modular elevator save us money?” The typical–and honest–answer is that it depends on multiple factors. But we were fortunate to recently encounter a real world example of two comparable projects, one stick-built and one modular, where we know the full build costs on each. And the results are stunning.
The two jobs are pictured above. They were both in Southern Illinois, in 2016, about 30 miles apart. Both were retrofits on the exterior of brick buildings. Both were 2-story buildings, though the modular had an extra ground-level stop on the rear.
The elevator on the right was stick-built. It was a bid job, and the total construction cost, including all the site work, hoistway construction, and elevator installation, was $249,998. The project took 10 months from start to finish.
The elevator on the left was modular. It looks shorter than the stick-built elevator on the right, because it accesses the basement, so one of the stops is below ground. The total construction cost was around $150,000. And because the GC dug the footings and poured the pit while the modular elevator was under construction, total project duration was 2 1/2 months.
So is there always a cost savings with Phoenix Modular Elevator? Again hard to say, as it depends on many factors that vary by geography. We do know that modular always saves time. And if you are in the market for a high-quality commercial elevator, why not find out if modular will save you money as well? In 5 minutes we can give you budget pricing to allow you to compare.
Rev. Stan Martin and Elder Roy Aarons had a problem at the First Presbyterian Church in Centralia, Illinois: 14 concrete steps. Those 14 steps lead into the sanctuary and make it difficult and, in some cases, impossible for older members and visitors to take part in services and events regularly offered by the church. As a very active part of the community it serves, the church knew a permanent solution was needed to solve the stair issue.
However, possible fixes were limited, as the church is a historic building. The congregation was founded before the Civil War in 1856 and the current building had the cornerstone laid sometime in the 1919. Defacing a historic, nearly 100 year old building in the middle of Centralia wasn’t a viable alternative.
Another problem was the many narrow stairways throughout the inside of the church. They simply could not accommodate stair lifts, and the church leaders felt that the stigma that comes with stair lifts would cause people to avoid them. The church did have an external chair lift, but parts became increasingly difficult to find, repairs became more frequent, and the church felt it was necessary to post a person to help with operation. These factors were getting in the way of consistently using the lift. A ramp to the front door was also considered but ruled out as a viable option. To comply with code requirements, Elder Aarons estimated that the ramp would have to “circle the building” to follow all the rules. Not only would that be an inconvenience, but it would also detract from the overall look of the building.
The solution to the problem was Phoenix Modular Elevator. PME was able to provide a 2000 lb capacity, ADA/wheelchair approved, commercial-quality elevator to meet the needs of the church. The elevator complies with all applicable codes and will be safe for operation for those that are wheelchair bound or unable to navigate the steps. The elevator buttons will be at the proper height and they will not have to provide extra help for operation. Rev. Martin hopes that the elevator will allow wider access to the church: “There are people in our community that do not attend church because of steps. The elevator will make us accessible for anyone.” The elevator will ensure there is little interruption to their weekly schedule of services, meetings and Bible study, as anyone who wants to attend will now have full access.
The elevator will have the ground floor entrance facing the parking lot and it will reach two levels within the church. One will access the lower level, where classrooms and a fellowship area are located, while the other stop will access the second floor, reserved for additional classrooms, sanctuary and the church office. The elevator will be set exterior to the church, and the completed hoistway will be clad in brick to match the rest of the church so as not to detract from the look of the historic building.
Once the elevator pit is poured and openings for the stops are made, the elevator will be craned into place and be fully functioning in less than a week, ready for state inspection. To help keep costs low and within the church’s budget, an existing room in the basement will be converted into the machine room that will house the controller, hydraulic pump and tank.
The completed unit will be installed sometime in November and the public is invited to see an elevator lifted by crane and dropped into place. It is a faster, easier way to meet the needs of not only this church, but any church looking for a way to improve accessibility and tackle the problem of stairs.
Retrofit elevator projects are common for Phoenix Modular Elevator. However, the challenge in this case was to build and install a durable retrofit custom elevator in the middle of an existing five-story building quickly.
The purpose of the elevator was to increase accessibility for students, faculty, staff and visitors to Morthland College. It was very important for college that the project to be completed as fast as possible so there would be minimal interruption between semesters and at a reasonable cost.
Also, durability was a major concern. As the elevator would be open to the public, including to students it had to be tough. With full access granted to everyone use would be high during semesters so it had to be ready to take the rigors of a lot of use.
The Phoenix Modular Elevator team met with the Morthland personnel and discussed the goals and needs of the project. They then went to work with the goals in mind to produce the solution they needed.
Like most projects the Morthland elevator was created with a frame of durable 4×4 inch steel beams. Once the frame was welded, aligned, squared and plumbed, it was covered in fire-rated drywall. What makes Phoenix Modular Elevator so unique is that the elevator is constructed horizontally and the hoistway can be rotated so the entire project can be worked on safely.
The elevator doors and frames were then put in place and the internal workings of the elevator were installed and aligned. This means that the guide rails will be set up properly as they are easily accessed for inspection during the build. Unlike the out of date method of building a hoistway on a job site and then putting all the parts together from the inside vertically, we build ours to be easily rotated. One of the final steps is the insertion of the elevator car, final wiring, testing and inspection.
Of course prior to the final placement a pit area needed to be prepped. For this particular project a single in-ground hydraulic jack was used. When the pit floor was poured anchor bars were placed in the corners for the completed elevator and hoistway and a hole was left in the middle of the pit for drilling the in-ground jack hole. The hole was drilled, lined and the jack was put into place. The lining of the hole is crucial as it protects against possible future leaks of hydraulic fluid. Once all the preparation was completed, the entire finished elevator was lowered down the hoistway through the roof into the pit.
This project was completed quickly as requested. From the time we received the approved plans the elevator was built in our factory in less than eight weeks, then transported to the main building on campus and install in less than one week. Phoenix Modular Elevator has the shortest lead time of any commercial grade elevator. Also, the design was durable and we were able to complete the project under budget.
When Basis Independent School was being built in Brooklyn, New York they considered everything from what curriculum to teach to the floor plan of the new building. But, when it came to assisting with mobility it was Phoenix Modular Elevator (PME) from southern Illinois that was the solution. The modular elevator has now been officially approved and is ready for use.
The challenge was to provide a durable elevator that was ecologically sound while minimizing the footprint for the seven story structure. The answer was a high quality, Phoenix Modular Elevator that had no bulky machine room that would normally take up more space. This specific type of elevator is called a machine roomless or MRL elevator. The machine that moves the elevator car resides at the top of the shaft or hoistway instead of in a complete room accessed from the rooftop. This is possible because the machine is smaller and more efficient than in a traditional traction elevator design.
Also, studies have found that MRL elevators consume less energy than traction elevators and they do not use hydraulic oil that can spill or leak. A study from VTT, Technical Research Centre concluded that an MRL can consume approximately half the energy of a traction elevator and about one third of the energy of typical hydraulic machine.
Durability was not a challenge for PME. They have become school elevator experts with nearly 300 elevators installed in California schools alone. The result is a design that takes into consideration wear and tear that a school elevator will encounter.
The elevator consists of a prefabricated fire-rated shaft with all the elevator components installed and wired in the factory. They are manufactured horizontally with greater quality controls, faster production and installation time and at a lower overall cost. The old way of building an elevator is to build the shaft on a job site vertically, then assemble the numerous components inside the vertical shaft in less than optimal conditions. This dated method is less safe and requires more time to build, slowing up construction and increasing costs.
A Phoenix Modular Elevator is built to exact specifications and then shipped on a truck and hoisted into place at the job site. Because Basis Independent was a seven stop elevator it was shipped on three trucks, in three sections and then each section was hoisted into place and bolted to the one below.
When Clarence Bergen of Urban Life Pools and Hot Tubs had a vision for a new facility in Steinbach Manitoba, it included a glass elevator that would be in the center of the showroom. To accomplish that dream he began where most people in the market for an elevator would, by calling big elevator companies. Unfortunately his experience, like so many others, consisted of leaving messages, not getting returned phone calls and leaving his questions unanswered.
Bergen said, “I was getting nowhere and wasting time. I could tell by their attitude that they didn’t have time for me or my project.”
He then called Phoenix Modular Elevator (PME) in Illinois and with their help he began to start piecing together the project that he had in mind. First, the elevator would be in the center of the building and needed to be self-supporting. Second, it had to be cost effective. Dreams don’t have a price tag, but the $200,000 number being kicked around by big elevator companies was a bit much even for a dream. Lastly, he wanted a glass elevator to match the design of the rest of the building.
He knew right away that PME was different. They answered the phone every time, and they were friendly, professional and responsive. They were willing to discuss the project Clarence had in mind and how they could work together to make the dream a reality. Freestanding structure? Check. Phoenix Modular Elevators are designed to be self-supporting. Cost effective? Check. The outlandish $200,000 price tag to seem like an amount big elevator companies used to discourage his plans. PME’s numbers worked much better. Glass elevator? Check. It was not only doable but, PME worked with Clarence to meet all of his unique specs for the job.
It may seem odd that an Illinois company would be providing Canadians with elevators, however the unique approach used to build and install them, makes PME elevators a perfect match for any project. Whether they are specialized glass elevators or not, PME elevators begin with heavy 4X4 inch, tube steel columns and beams that make up the frame.
The elevator is constructed horizontally with greater quality controls, faster production and installation time at a lower overall cost.The glass elevator hoistway was left uncovered or “naked” where most elevators PME produces are covered in fire-rated material. Then non-proprietary components, including the car, are installed and wired in the factory. The old way of building an elevator is to build the shaft on a job site vertically, then assemble the numerous components inside the vertical shaft in less than optimal conditions. That process takes months and means a dangerous working environment in the cold, snow and rain, causing construction delays. This dated method is less safe, more confined, and requires more time to build, slowing construction projects and increasing costs.
A Phoenix Modular Elevator is built to exact specifications in a factory setting, then shipped on a truck to the location and hoisted into place at the job site, requiring only a few days of final installation work before it is ready for inspection.
PME president Allison Allgaier is looking forward to more projects in Canada and said, “Phoenix Modular Elevators are approved for the Canadian market and we are sending more and more north. They are safe, high quality, commercial grade and factory built means constant controls and inspections.” She went onto say, you can find PME elevators installed across the United States and Canada in hotels, stadiums, office buildings, theme parks, government buildings and churches as well as schools.
Recently Phoenix had two other elevators approved for use in Manitoba at Manitoba Hydro north of Gillam. The Urban Life project is the third in the past two months and owner Clarence Bergen is pleased with the project, “This elevator was easy to install, rides great and the project was completed in no time. I am proud of the job and how it looks.”
Phoenix Modular Elevator is a Mount Vernon, Illinois business and has been constructing modular elevators since 1995.