Category Archives: The Challenge

Timeline: Actual Modular Elevator Project

Revolution MillsWhen 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.

Quick Quote – February 24, 2016

The project timeline begins with the quick quote. At the time of the quick quote, we learn the particulars for the specific project and then provide a very close estimate for the actual investment. The free quick quote can be requested online through a simple form, an email with job details, or a phone call. We can provide this estimate within a couple of minutes, in most circumstances.

In this specific case, the quick quote was requested through our website and a quote was provided the same day. To clarify some aspects of the job, we placed a phone call to discuss the specifics and ensure the estimate was as close to accurate as possible. Once we forwarded the quick quote to the requesting party, we followed up to make sure they got it and see if there are any changes.

An alternative is a verbal quick quote from a phone call. If you want a quick quote immediately, we can give you a verbal figure based on a few questions. Keep in mind you do not need to know every aspect of the job to get this thumbnail of the cost. The online form is very simple. 

Formal Quote – March 10, 2016

Once the quick quote has been reviewed and found to be satisfactory, a formal quote is the next step. When a formal quote is requested, we verify important details such as the exact travel distance between floors, hoistway requirements, cab details and fixtures, controls, and machine-room information. We also provide a freight estimate and our terms and conditions.

We let you know the total price, what that includes, and the payment terms. Once we get to this step we realize we are very likely to be entering into a partnership to provide a high-quality commercial elevator.

In this case the quick quote was reviewed and a formal quote was requested on March 10. Usually, and in this case, the formal quote is ready in 24 hours. However, if there is a special need or item, it can take a day or two to get the numbers to the client. There will always be an open line of communication though, so you will not be in the dark if there is a delay.

Purchase Order – April 18, 2016

We then wait for the purchase order. Sometimes we receive the purchase order immediately, but believe it or not, sometimes we have had to wait a long time for this step and, in some circumstances, have even had to update the formal quote as they are only guaranteed for 60 days. Once the purchase order is received, the real hive of activity begins. However, we do need a couple of items with the P.O. to really get things going.

We need some cash to get started in the form of a 10% deposit. This is 10% of the total price, not including the freight estimate. If you need an invoice to pay from, let us know and we’ll send you one. Please remember the freight is not included. This can cause some headaches if you forget that down the road. The reason the freight is not included is because it fluctuates from factors well beyond our control.

Also, we will be needing, as soon as possible, a completed Project Data Sheet. We will provide this form and will help you walk through it if there’s any confusion. The Project Data Sheet gives us critical information to produce drawings for your elevator project. It also gives us the right contact info so we can set you up in our system and know who to talk to for each aspect of the project. By the way, guessing is not good enough for this step. You have heard it said to “measure twice and cut once,” that goes double for ordering an elevator. We need floor travel as accurate as possible as well as your final choice of cab style, orientation, hall call location, and door types.

Approval of Drawings – April 29, 2016

The purpose of the Project Data Sheet is to complete drawings for your elevator project. Believe it or not, if the Project Data Sheet is completed, we can have drawings done for your standard project within 24 hours. You will receive a PDF of the drawings with a marked area for your signature or your representative’s signature. The drawings need to be reviewed thoroughly as it is the last time to make sure everything is where it should be and the dimensions and floor travels are accurate to a quarter of an inch.

In our example, the drawings were completed on time and sent to the customer on April 29. They reviewed them carefully, signed and dated them, and returned them to us on May 05, 2017.  At this point we will be contacting you for a date and time for delivery because when we say eight weeks, we mean eight weeks and we do not want to produce your elevator, only for it to sit at the end of our assembly line for months on end.

If you are in a hurry (many people are), the clock starts ticking for us at this point. Delivery will be in eight weeks. This is so far out of the traditional elevator timeline that oftentimes customers will give us a false deadline because they are worried about delays. There are no delays and we do not miss delivery dates. If you have a pressing need for an even faster delivery, we can work with you and expedite if need be. Also, at this time 20% of the payment is due and you will receive an invoice. The funds should accompany the approved, signed drawings when they are returned to us so we can get started as soon as possible.

Ordering Components – June 1, 2016

We enter the information from the drawings into our system as well as information about elevator doors and other components to complete the project and we begin to place orders for steel to be delivered on time as well as any elevator parts that are needed. We do stock many components on the assembly line. Keep in mind that there are only a handful of elevator component companies that almost everyone uses for elevator parts and pieces. We only use non-proprietary components to keep maintenance costs lower and ensure that any elevator technician can service our elevators.

The process of ordering components will continue as the date for the delivery is often in flux. We know the delivery time of the items we need so we can be very efficient in our ordering process. We will consistently stay in touch with you during this time period because we know the date of delivery can be moved up or back and we can accommodate most changes.

Due to the shipping date, in this example ordering components began in June and continued through August.

Manufacturing Begins – August 31, 2016

We begin typically about 2-3 weeks after we receive drawings, but this can vary depending on the date you need the elevator. If you would like progress photos of your elevator being built, let us know and we will be happy to accommodate you. Or feel free to come out during production and see it in person! We think our process is pretty cool, and love to share it with anyone who is interested.

While we are building your elevator, you will need to be doing the elevator-related site work: having the pit poured, cutting door penetrations, and scheduling electrical, fire alarms, and phone line install. The GC may need some direction and can check our website for information.

We’ll also provide a guide with details on everything you need to do so the site is ready for the elevator when it arrives. Typically 4-5 weeks after starting, your elevator will be complete and ready to ship.  Prior to shipment, we will invoice you for 30% if we included installation in our price, or 40% if we did not include it.  This payment must be received prior to our shipping the elevator.

Shipped to Site – September 29, 2016

Our elevators are shrink wrapped in the factory and loaded directly on to a flatbed truck for delivery. We will provide you with all the information you need with links to our website to help out the elevator contractor. As usual, we will be able to answer any questions and often will send a technician to the site to answer questions in real time as the installation occurs. Here is the actual installation of this project.

You especially need to make sure the crane is ordered and everyone that needs to be is familiar with the information on our website. It contains everything you need to know to put the elevator in place. For a good overview of the installation, here is a video that you can watch.

Passed Inspection –  July 3, 2017

Believe it or not, the waiting game begins now. Our elevators can be put in place at anytime in the building process. We can be the first item placed, the last, or the middle. This means that often times our elevator will sit on site for months on end. They can handle the time with no problem. One of our elevators was set in Western Canada at the beginning of winter and sat there until the rest of the building was constructed around it; when the birds started chirping and leaves turned green, they unwrapped it and started it right up nine months later.

In the case of our 2-stop project example, the elevator was placed on time, but there was no electric available in the building. So it sat. And sat. Finally, the electric was completed and the elevator was plugged in, filled up with fluid, prepped, and fired up. It passed inspection and we finally closed the book on the project.


Success! The elevator was completed and shipped on time, as promised. This project is not an unusual one because each and every job is different. We provide any mode of conveyance and can engineer elevators for any distance of travel. That means each elevator is unique. Click here to see the elevator installation. 

Just like in this case, we understand that every project we do has times of rushing and times of waiting.  Rest assured we will do our absolute best to work with your schedule and help out every step of the way. After all…We 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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Real Life Example of Savings With Phoenix Modular Elevator

two-elevatorsWhat 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.

The fastest installing elevator begins with a quick quote.
To get an elevator start here with a quick quote!


How a Church Tackles Stairs

churchRev. 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.

first-pres-2Another 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.

The fastest installing elevator begins with a quick quote.
To get an elevator start here with a quick quote!

The Challenge – Retrofit

The Challenge

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.

Fixed Morthland Install
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 Solution

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.

Fixed Morthland TurnLike 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 Fixed Morthland Jackbars 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.

The fastest installing elevator begins with a quick quote.
To get an elevator start here with a quick quote!

The Challenge – Basis School Brooklyn

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.

The fastest installing elevator begins with a quick quote.
To get an elevator start here with a quick quote!

The Challenge – A Glass Elevator

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.

The fastest installing elevator begins with a quick quote.
To get an elevator start here with a quick quote!