At 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.
Monticello is a UNSECO World Heritage Site, as much because of the uniqueness and innovation as to the fame of its founder, architect, and owner Thomas Jefferson, the third president and writer of the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. The home displays dozens of innovations imagined by Jefferson and completed by expert artisan and joiner James Dinsmore. Some examples include, the great clock in the entry hall, dumbwaiters for wine and beer bottles tucked away in the sides of the dining room fireplace mantel, and triple pane windows in a bedroom often used by James and Dolly Madison that could double as exterior doors.
Innovation was what drove Jefferson and that innovation can be seen throughout his life from the words of the Declaration of Independence to his world renowned research gardens and in the home in which he lived.
The visit to Monticello and the innovation it hosts was appropriate because innovation was on full display during the Elevator U conference as well and is a reality throughout the elevator industry as the continued improvements to the vertical transportation industry was often the topic of conversation.
At the conference, the point was made that too often large industries get stuck in a malaise where dominant forces slow innovation and do not experiment with new ways of thinking or provide new solutions to problems that arise. For instance, one of the well noted problems universal to the elevator industry, and the bane of the construction business, is regarding the timeline involved with elevator installation. Let’s be honest for a moment and just say it…traditional stick built elevators are simply not practical to install. Months can pass as a hoistway is built (dependent on weather, for instance), and then several more months can tick away as the elevator is installed vertically inside the cramped quarters of an elevator shaft.
At the conference, many elevator technicians were excited to see that modular elevators have the elevator rails pre-installed and are thereby safer. Many injuries could be avoided as lifting rails and hanging them in a vertical shaft is no longer needed. Not so long ago, innovation was needed to reduce the timeline and make installation safer, and modular elevators were born. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of these new inventions were installed in schools. We at Phoenix Modular Elevator continue to be very supportive of Elevator U because they are committed to understanding advancements in technology and innovation.
With the help of our friends at Elevator U, the market and need for modular elevators continues to grow as they are a fast, quality solution with installation times of a week or less. They are safer to install and the same quality as their stick-built counterparts. Yet in some quarters, fear of innovation persists and hesitancy to change continues despite the overwhelming advantages.
A lesson from the Monticello trip is that those not willing to change should heed the words of Jefferson himself when he said:
“I am not myself apt to be alarmed at innovations recommended by reason. That dread belongs to those whose interests or prejudices shrink from the advance of truth and science.”
The time is not to shrink from advancements, but to embrace them. If Jefferson were alive today, his home of innovation would not have had a simple dumbwaiter for wine but a modular elevator to every floor of his mansion.