Tag Archives: Design

Don’t Suffer Buyer’s Remorse

Empty WalletRecently, we got an all-too-familiar email when following up on an apartment complex bid we had put together on an elevator project. We had been asked to provide a bid for a new project, and about a year had passed since the project had been awarded.  We were not the vertical transportation solution chosen. However, this type of email exchange is something that has become very common for us as the prospective customer checks their wallet at the end of the project and finds out it is empty.

In answering our question about how the project was going, the customer responded, “As you know, the contractor went with a conventional unit, which on the surface is cheaper.  However, if all the costs were included, I’m sure we picked the wrong one. Anyway, I like what you are doing and will look forward to working with you in the near future.”

He went on to say that the person in charge of accepting the bid had failed on a number of levels leaving many scratching their heads and wondering how the cost got so far out of whack. First and foremost, the cost analysis completed had not included the expense of building a stick-built hoistway. Our units, of course, include the hoistway, complete with finished doorways and hall calls ready to go, with the elevator car inserted in our factory and all of the wiring already complete. It is ready for installation, whether traction or hydraulic. The four-by-four-inch tube steel hoistway is wrapped in drywall to provide a one- or two-hour fire rating and will accept any finish, whether it is going on the interior or exterior of a building.

Pleasant Prairie

The customer was also frustrated with the constant delays of the project by the stick-built elevator company.  Starts and stops are not unusual on a big apartment complex project, but the delays coming from an elevator contractor can be maddening.  Keep in mind, the old-fashioned stick-built elevator companies will say they have a 16-week lead time, but they are not including construction of the hoistway. This means that the elevator hoistway is the first thing built and there it sits until the project has the electric turned on.  Then they start placing the rails and building an elevator car inside the hoistway (the dumbest way to build an elevator).  Weeks to months later, it is finally finished. We have an eight-week lead time and less than a week installation. One of our current clients estimates our solution can shave six months off the total construction time. Faster completion means quicker occupancy.

Third on the list of complaints was a steady stream of change orders.  When we price a project, we don’t just throw rough numbers or standard designs out there that do not match your expectations and then change-order you to death when it is not what you wanted.  We take the time to read the specifications closely and deliver a proposal as close to the final price as possible. We know this keeps us from being competitive on some jobs, but we are willing to take that chance. Knowing what you as the customer want and delivering an accurate bid are important to us, and we hope it will be for you as well.

Lastly, ongoing costs of long-term maintenance agreements drive the cost of the elevator way up when dealing with the Goliath elevator companies.  Over a 25-year span of time, maintenance for a single three-stop traction unit from a major elevator company is nearly $180,000.  Many unknowingly are inking a lopsided deal that spans the best ten years of the life of an elevator and auto-increases every year. Our elevators have non-proprietary parts that allow for flexibility and shopping of maintenance contracts. This can be a significant savings over time. Our elevators also come with a one-year initial maintenance contract that can be shopped if the customer is not satisfied with the service.

For all the above reasons, the prospective customer felt buyer’s remorse. We may have lost the first bid, but we gained a life-long customer in the process. Hopefully, you will skip the pain of overpaying and start with a modular elevator from Phoenix Modular Elevator.

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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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Factory Built Elevator- Early Planning Makes for Easier Planning

MBI WOM 2There is no doubt that modular elevators are the future for almost any building application, from modular buildings to traditional projects and from low to medium rise and beyond. Everyone knows that modular elevators are simply safer, faster, and smarter.

But they are also easier for everyone involved in the process. Designers, architects, builders, and elevator installers are all helped by the overall concept and tremendous flexibility provided with modular.  However, there is one thing you can do in the earliest phases of construction that can make converting to the modular solution even easier:  consider a modular elevator solution as early in the process as possible.

This is not to say that you can’t consider modular at anytime during the project from design to completion. You can certainly decide on modular late in the game and we are more than willing to help.  We have even been asked to provide a modular elevator solution after a building has been completed. The customer simply got tired of waiting for the stick-built elevator company to show up and get the job done. Turns out, in most cases we can design, engineer, manufacture, ship, and install a quality commercial elevator in less time than a traditional elevator company orders and receives all its components.

However, we would be fibbing if we didn’t tell you that it is just easier overall if you begin the project with modular in mind. The reason lies in the biggest benefit of a modular elevator: that it comes with the completed, manufactured hoistway as part of the package. There is no need to design and engineer CMU walls. Our modular elevator will come with its own specially-engineered, structurally sound 4X4 inch tube steel frame and is clad in one- or two-hour fire rated enclosure.  The structure can also accommodate any hurricane or earthquake zone.  And it can support some gravity loads such as floor joists or stair landings.  So it makes a lot of sense and saves a bit of money to just draw in a hole and leave the engineering to us.

In addition, our standard wall assembly is not as thick as a CMU shaft, so using our footprint in planning will free up a few inches of space to incorporate into the rest of your building.  Our equipment may have a slightly different layout than another manufacturer’s, so it makes sense to decide up front and avoid more design modifications down the road.

Wondering what a modular elevator is?  It’s a prefabricated shaft with the elevator car and other components assembled inside the shaft in our factory.  You can read more about them here.

We can also deliver a “naked” elevator with no drywall wrapping at all. These are used for glass elevators or ones that come with decorative metal hoistways usually for an atrium or mezzanine. This flexibility means that modular elevators can be an early part of the design process.

Many buildings have a clear and intentional look and feel.  A modular elevator is manufactured in a such a way that any cab interior or hoistway finish that would be specified in a stick-built elevator can be utilized in a modular elevator.  So whether you’re looking for durable or high-end, modern or traditional, a modular elevator can deliver it cost-effectively.

To keep the process simple and to give you the ability to put a modular solution in quickly, we provide CAD drawings that can be placed directly in your schematics.

So, when it comes to choosing the next elevator for an upcoming project, call us anytime.  But think about placing the elevator early, for best time-saving results. Click below to get a quick quote if you have a project in mind or call us for a formal quote.

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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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A Blank Canvas – The Architect’s Dream

nypl.digitalcollections.b3afd5e1-27a1-4acf-e040-e00a180661f0.001.wArchitects often see setbacks worthy of quitting when trying to integrate the restrictions and requirements of GC’s into their artistic design.

One of history’s most important artists could have also let setbacks and failures crush him as a young painter. Giving up would have been more than understandable, as Paul Cézanne’s father saw no future in the world of art for his son and, ultimately, was instrumental in pushing his young son to study law and work in the bank he had founded instead of following his heart.

Further disappointment followed when Cézanne finally applied to enroll in the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris (one of the most prestigious schools) and he was rejected almost immediately. Likewise, in the various salons in Paris, time and again his work was refused. A lesser man’s dreams would have been extinguished and one could only imagine the pressure and anxiety that accompanied every stroke of the brush.  It’s no wonder he was quoted as saying, “It’s so fine and yet so terrible to stand in front of a blank canvas.”

The blank canvas to Cézanne was equally torture and pleasure, but none can dispute the energy he drew from it. It led to him being one of the most influential artists of his time. He was drawn to the blank canvas, simultaneously pushed and pursued by it.

In the “mother art” (architecture – according to Frank Lloyd Wright), architects too are drawn to the blank canvas. Read the rest of the article here!

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Time – The Most Precious Commodity

russ-head-shot-2

By Russ Ward

Being raised in the the 1960’s and 70s, my friends and I actually lived scenes from movies like Stand By Me and The Sandlot, as well as television shows such as The Wonder Years.  We were close-knit compadres, and many life lessons sprung from the hijinx and innocence of suburban neighborhood living in small town America. Even today when the “gang” gets together to reminisce about days past, there are still nuggets of knowledge that we glean from the stories we tell. For instance, while speaking with a childhood friend recently, I learned an important lesson about time and how precious it is.

That friend was Abe, one of the brightest, most introspective men I know. However, this wasn’t always the case. He, as was the whole gang, was a victim of poor teenage driving habits, often confusing the left pedal with the right. We were all novices behind the wheel with a long list of escapades and close calls where the vertical foot pedal (the gas) was employed rather than the horizontal one (the  brake).  One day on his way to school, all of those close calls and confusion cost Abe significantly, as the front of his parents station wagon made the acquaintance of an innocent automobile.  Word of the accident spread quickly, and later in the day, as the broken hulk of the automobile sat lifelessly in the driveway of 15 Buena Vista Drive, my friends and I stood in the street laughing, making broad gestures and wondering aloud what would become of poor, hapless Abe.

His father was the serious sort and not to be trifled with. Although he was a great and generous man, he played the part of stern father perfectly. He rarely smiled in our presence and he had a glare, through deep bushy eyebrows, that could melt most teenagers right out of their Chuck Taylors. Plainly put, if all of humanity is blessed with one superpower each, this dad’s extraordinary ability was his teenage-dissolving gaze. Couple that vision with the vivid imagination of three hyperbolic teenagers gawking at the dented Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon and one could only imagine the scenes we pantomimed as we brashly discussed the looming punishment that Abe would be facing. Little did we know that behind the bay window of the house that faced the street and the twisted steel hulk of a station, stood father and son.

What was surprising was not what the father said about the three stooges at the end of the driveway. Instead, as I listened to Abe tell the story years later, I was most surprised by his father’s overriding premise that the toll the accident would ultimately take would not be relegated to a bent bumper and caved in fender, but rather to time lost.

After all was said and done, what the father was most displeased with, besides the dented car and the antics of three knotheads,  was the many hours lost due to meetings and phone calls with the insurance company and car mechanics. In his wisdom, he knew time lost would never be found again, a lesson that was not lost on Abe through the years. He knows that the problem with time is that it is often difficult to quantify, like a mist that slips past us unnoticed. Because of this experience, he is more cognizant of the clock and how precious each second can be.

You’re probably asking yourself, what does this have to do with modular elevators? One of the benefits of modular elevators is the time savings.

A construction expert put it this way: traditional elevators have a minimum six month installation time, regardless of the upfront estimate. Modular elevators, on the other hand, can be installed in as little as one week. He went on to say that, using rough math, if installing an elevator in a hotel of 100 rooms at approximately $100 per room per night takes six months to install, this results in approximately 180 fewer days of occupancy. This comes to 1.8 million reasons to contact Phoenix Modular Elevator and find out more about the fastest installing, quality commercial elevator in the world. As Benjamin Franklin observed, time is fleeting, but it is also quantifiable. Just ask Abe and his dad.

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Lightening the Architectural Load

california-architectBeing an architect is one of the most demanding occupations in existence.  Years of study, combined with formal training and on the job experience, is required. Added to the mix is the pressure of perfection coupled with a demand for creativity. Sometimes it seems like there are very few ways for architects to escape the woes, stresses and strains of the occupation they have chosen when working on a project.

One solution to lighten this load is to consider modular construction for some project building components. Oftentimes, modular solutions are easily incorporated into drawings and plans with drag and drop capabilities. Modular elevators fall into this category, as they provide a fast, simple solution for vertical transportation, as well as a flexible hoistway  and car design.

claifornia-architect-2In this picture of a medical center in California, the focus is on the elevator hoistway’s exterior design. It is clad with architectural metal wall panels that give it a professional, cutting edge look that matches the rest of the building perfectly. The hoistway was able to easily fit within the architect’s vision, one which allows the elevator to enhance, rather than disrupt, the building design.

In addition, there is flexibility in placement. Modular elevators can be placed on the exterior or interior of a building or even be free-standing in an atrium. The possibilities are truly endless.

To make placement of the elevator as painless as possible, most modular component companies provide drawings that can easily be placed into project drawings. This was true in the example project. Not only was the architect able to drag and drop the hoistway details into the project plans, but the machine room drawings were also available.

While the job of an architect is filled with angst, tests, demands and pains not associated with many other occupations, there are some technologies that help lighten that burden just a little bit.

The fastest installing elevator begins with a quick quote.
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