Category Archives: Think Beyond Elevators

World of Modular Take-A-Ways

By John Hefner

Once again, I take the reigns of the most exciting, entertaining, and generally informative blog in the world (you’re welcome, Russ Ward!), the Phoenix Modular Elevator blog!! I was excited to attend the World of Modular convention from March 15-18 in fabulous Las Vegas!

I went out to represent our company, but learned a wealth of information about how modular is changing the industry. Did you know that modular is solving housing problems caused by expanding populations, natural disaster, or timeline crunches?Through a series of breakout sessions, we learned how people around the globe are using modular in crazy situations, such as in Alaska to house most of the population of a town. In Korea, where space is at a premium, it’s hard to build traditionally because it has to be done fast so the town can resume normal function. My personal favorite was an MRI facility that can be packed up and taken where needed while a facility is updating their MRI equipment.

Two of the big announcements made at the show came in the breakout sessions. One is that shipping containers are now going to be a part of the International Building Code, which will make passing inspections easier. The other was that Mariott International announced that they were going to give incentives for their owners of hotels to use modular components so that they can build hotels faster!

But the gem of the show is the awards banquet, where we all don our dress clothes, have a fancy dinner, and look at some of the best the industry has to offer. For a person just being exposed to the industry and, I’ll admit, previous misconceptions that modular means a glorified trailer, I was stunned by some of the buildings on display: houses that any family would be glad to call home; huge, movable complexes where pipeline and factory workers can rest between shifts when they are away from home; doctors offices and storefronts that were put up quickly so that they could start plying their wares and trade.

The most exciting part was when two projects that, up till that moment were a sheet on the project board, won awards! Congratulations Axis Construction who won Best of Show Permanent Facility over 10,000 sq. ft. with the Vanderbilt Family Health Clinic! It featured two of our elevators.

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Also recognized in the Relocatable Modular Education under 10,000 sq feet category was Aries Building Systems for their BelovED Community Charter School. P.S. Our elevator and machine room is front and center!

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Congratulations to all the winners representing the best of the modular industry and we look forward to working with you all in the future!! I know I’m looking forward to seeing even more of our projects next year!


Limits to the MRL Hydro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Comes Earlier for PME

Chocolate Factory

Every year it seems that the Holidays and Christmas season creeps up earlier and earlier on the calendar. What used to push into November is now full bloom in mid-October. Christmas songs start making their way into the muzak mix in stores and there is more red and green decorations than florid fall flowers.  Keep in mind that I have generally been resistant to even picking up wrapping paper and Seasons Greetings cards in October and November. As a matter of fact, until recently the bulk of my Yuletide shopping was done exclusively on Christmas Eve! But this year I am admittedly part of the problem. That is because at Phoenix Modular Elevator we decided to try something different for holiday goodies that make their way to our customers every year. Find out what we tried that has everyone a little hungry.

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NAEC Purpose for PME

NAEC FinalThe National Association of Elevator Contractors (NAEC) meets every year, this year for the 69th time in Atlantic City, New Jersey  from September 24 – 27. It is being billed as the “Largest Vertical Transportation Show in North America” and without doubt, it is just that. There will be opportunities for education, building connections in business and seeing what’s new in a huge exhibitor area. If you attend NAEC, stop by booth #1846 and talk with us about your future and the future of the elevator industry. We would love to listen.

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If you would like to be considered as an installer for Phoenix Modular Elevator, just fill out the simple form here and someone will be in contact with you shortly.

If you already have a project in mind just click below.

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Three Stooges to PME – History of Modular Elevators

6a00d8341c5fc853ef01348883d390970c-450wiModular buildings have been around longer than you think. In the United States, Sears started offering their version of modular in the form of self-contained kits in 1908. These are often claimed as “modular” but in reality, they were an all inclusive truck loads of parts and boards pre-cut for specifically purchased plans.

This unique style of home building is forever immortalized by the Three Stooges in “The Sit Downers” where the Stooges attempt to build one of these homes for their new brides (be patient the home arrives 7 minutes in). Larry sums up the Stooge’s problems with the pre-cut lumber when he exclaims, “There’s nothing ready cut about these houses every board is too long.” So much for Sears’ foray into modular. Get the rest of the history here. 

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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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When Faster isn’t Really Faster

1_thumbRecently, it was announced that the CTF Finance Center in Guangzhou, China broke records as the fastest elevator in the world to date. Believe it or not, it travels at an astounding 46.9 miles per hour straight up! Wow! An elevator in Shanghai, China (Shanghai Tower) finishes in second place with a speed of 42.8 mph and the fastest North American elevator clocks in at a paltry 22.7 mph in comparison. It is located at the Freedom Tower at 1 World Trade Center in New York. It is a bit slower but the show you get going up and down is worth it.

As it turns out, the elevator in your building is not breaking any world records, but, unless you are in the Willis Tower in Chicago or the Empire State Building in New York, you probably don’t need a three million dollar monstrosity that can hit highway speeds. Keep in mind that the world record holding building has a total of 95 elevators and only two elevators are the super fast ones and they only go from the first floor to the 95th where the world’s highest hotel resides. As a matter of fact, the CTF Finance Center has 52 medium and low speed elevators, as well as the two speed-demons.

Find out why speed is overrated. Click here. 

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Innovation the Key – Jefferson the Example

Monticello 1At the recent Elevator U conference, on the last day  we had the pleasure of leaving the final session, boarding buses and, as a group, visiting the historic home of Thomas Jefferson in Monticello. The Elevator U conference is an annual gathering of elevator and facility managers from colleges and universities across the country where participants learn more about vertical transportation, innovation in the industry, and make important contacts. We cannot give a higher recommendation for attendance to this annual event.

The visit to Monticello demonstrated the forward thinking of Thomas Jefferson, but also represented the forward thinking of Elevator U. Find out how vision applies to Elevator U and the elevator industry. Click Here.

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Piecing it all together

Puzzle FinalBy Russ Ward

My mother loved doing jigsaw puzzles. The more difficult the better, as far as she was concerned. These puzzles became family projects that we all worked on, especially in the winter while we were cooped up in the house on snowy days.

My mom was no novice of puzzle completion and had a strictly adhered to plan in putting them together that made a lot of sense: start with turning all of the pieces to the picture side and then find all of the corners. From there, the rest of the edge pieces were found and put into to place, making an outline of the picture. The rest of the puzzle, one piece at a time, would then follow.

Construction, especially with modular components, is its own kind of puzzle…Find out how modular can help with the puzzle of construction projects.

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8 Weeks Means 8 Weeks

Red DevilsFootballHigh School football is a great place to learn life lessons. Just a few include: (1) teamwork and planning leads extraordinary success, (2) hard work pays off, (3) how to win with grace, (4) how to lose with dignity, and, lastly, punishment is capricious and arbitrary.

Once upon a time, while I was playing football in high school, we lost a big game to a cross county rival. I did my job just fine. I blocked as I should, pushing myself and my opponent the extra yard. Not once did the guy across the line of scrimmage from me take part in any tackle. He never laid a finger on the quarterback or running back, and I did this without landing a single penalty. However, when the time came to pay for the loss, we all took the hit.

At the time, we had a punishment that has since been banned in most high schools as it was both cruel and unusual and was certainly banned by the Geneva Convention: the dreaded belly-flop.  It was a torturous drill that involved chopping your feet as fast as you can, as you moved forward in increments of five yards and then hitting the ground – belly first (hence the name) on each five-yard line when the maniacal, spittle-spewing coach blew his whistle, only to spring back to our feet and continue on our perilous journey up and down the dirt covered practice field.  Regardless of my personal efforts and my on field successes, I too had to join in the cloud of dust churned up by the 20 guys on the team going goal line to goal line. We can get you an elevator in just eight weeks …Find out how here! 

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