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Robert Morris University, located in the heart of Chicago, leases 370,000 sq. ft. of a national landmark building formerly known as the Second Leiter Building.

University of California, Los Angeles and Robert Morris University in Chicago update elevator cabs.

With more than 38,000 students on their 400-acre urban campus, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) administrators have turned to high-rise buildings to provide enough classroom and housing space to meet the needs of their growing student body. With college enrollment increasing 38% from 1999 to 2009 (from 14.8 million to 20.4 million), many other universities around the county have made similar decisions. This increase in students and faculty members places high demand on campus buildings and makes the job of maintaining elevators a high priority for facility managers responsible for getting students where they need to go in a safe and timely manner.

UCLA

UCLA facility managers are faced with high-traffic-volume buildings, the elevator interiors of which are often subjected to vandalism or unintended damage as students move their belongings in and out of a building. Maintaining these interiors is important for many reasons, but of primary concern is that these cabs are one of the first things prospective attendees and their parents will see when touring the university.

UCLA set up an in-house elevator-maintenance operation to keep the elevators in the campus’ 165 buildings looking presentable and running smoothly. Erik Ulstrup, senior superintendent of the UCLA Elevator Department, oversees the effort. Ulstrup is responsible for more than 400 elevators and assists in maintaining another 30 for the campus housing department. Once, he was looking for an interior replacement system that would allow the mechanics already assigned to his shop to install new cabs. The task was challenging due to the existing enclosures’ difficult installation and clip system learning curve.

Eventually, Ulstrup discovered SnapCab, an elevator-interior-systems company based in Warrington, Pennsylvania. Tom Bostock, Ulstrup’s project manager for SnapCab, recalls, “Our relationship with UCLA began in early 2006. Typically, a university will buy directly from us when they have an elevator maintenance department.” Ulstrup recollected, “The ease of installation and how the cabs come packed with everything the mechanics need to complete an installation is pretty much why we use them.” Since early 2006, SnapCab has sold UCLA more than 30 cab interiors.

Robert Morris University

Like UCLA, Robert Morris University also faced challenges in maintaining its elevator systems. Located in the heart of Chicago, the university leases urban quarters in the Robert Morris Center, a national landmark building formerly known as the Second Leiter Building. Each floor of the nine-story building is 50,000 sq.ft., and the university leases a total of 370,000 sq. ft. The center has the distinction of being one of the first buildings in the U.S. to be constructed with a steel skeleton.

Tom Garrity is the property manager and leasing agent for building owner Anvan Midwest Realty Management. Garrity faces unique challenges in his position, because the building is on the city, state and national historic register. From an elevator-modernization perspective, this means the building owner may change the interior and mechanics of the elevators but not the exterior elevator doors. The Robert Morris Center has eight elevators and, unlike a typical 60-hr.-per-week office building, is open 80 hr. a week. It is highly trafficked, with morning, afternoon and evening classes that draw 1,000-1,500 students each day, keeping the elevators in near constant use.

Because of the intense wear and occasional mischief that occur in the building’s elevators, Garrity had resorted to installing heavy-duty rubber panels on three sides of each elevator cab. However, this system became a maintenance headache, as students would pick at the seams and continuously loosen the panels. When renovating the eight cab interiors, Garrity turned to Urban Elevator Co. of Illinois, also the facility’s elevator maintenance company and consultant, which suggested SnapCab supply the cab interiors, as the companies had done business before.

In an online presentation with Garrity and Urban’s Tim Toan, SnapCab showed how different options could work within the structure of the leasing agreement and budget. The online meeting saved days in the design process. Garrity recollected:

“I was shocked at how quickly [Urban was] able to do the installation. Because of the high usage factor with these elevators, we didn’t want the elevator taken out for a week, but with the SnapCab system and real precise measurements, the installers were able to do all eight elevator cars in a couple of days. We only took one car out of service at a time.”

Garrity reports that while he purchased several extra panels in case of damage or vandalism, even after 10 months of use, no cab had been damaged, and the students had not been able to pry off a panel. He said, “From the facility manager’s perspective, we were able to balance attractive looks with durability. We ended up with almost invisible seams.”

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