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Modernization: A New Cycle

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“Does the lift system require a transplant, brain surgery or a facelift?” — Roger Howkins, author of Lift Modernization Guide

Modernization used to be an “every 20-years cycle,” but that has changed dramatically in the past couple of decades. Elevators have always been “built to last.” Indeed, often they outlive the buildings they serve. Building owners compete for tenants, and good elevator service can be a major selling point. The reasons for modernizing a building’s elevators — whether simple or complex — are legion: bringing units up to code; responding to the changing needs of tenants; responding to the needs of new tenants; accommodating increased traffic flow; expanding security; achieving energy savings; responding to environmental concerns; addressing maintenance problems or merely pursuing cosmetic goals. Now, it may be considered normal for a system to undergo several “mod jobs” of varying degrees of seriousness in a 20-year span. 

Our Focus on Modernization this month proved very popular, with seven articles tailored to the subject. We are lucky to have a terrific article by Howkins with Kate Hibner of Arup Vertical Transportation in London, Lift Modernization: the Lost Art of Engineering. They speak mostly to the European market of some 4.5 million units, some of which have never been converted or retrofitted. Many are quite old, with a high level of craftsmanship that would be difficult to duplicate today. Their description of the “forensic engineering” needed for a lift modernization engineer is fascinating.

For some, modernization is cosmetic, as in Ralph Newman’s Solving Two “Modern” Problems. Redoing the cabs may help an owner sell his building to new tenants or freshen up the look after a weather catastrophe.

Going Up? by Marty Walker of thyssenkrupp offers a wide range of modernization options for the elevator owner who needs to improve service, help the environment, re-use energy or update the interior décor.

In 111 North Canal Street, Chicago by Jeffrey Counts, the elevators had not been modernized in 40 years when Mitsubishi and Syska Hennessy took on the job of bringing the 10 elevators up to the new level of service demanded. New hardware and software was required, and coordination of MCE’s destination control was needed to bring all the pieces together. A clever fix was required for elevators that didn’t face the lobby and didn’t even face each other.

Also in Chicago, the landmark Women’s Athletic Club had dumbwaiters installed in the 1950s that had become a maintenance nightmare. In The Best of Both Worlds by Jim Piper, Matot and Parkway Elevators partnered to restore them to like-new condition. 

Dr. K. Ferhat Celik has written a compelling article on Hydraulic Elevator Modernization, which differs dramatically from that of traction. Celik notes that most hydraulics are five stops or less and 70% have very low usage. Those factors allow many different options in determining if the existing components are suitable for the working environment.

In Modernizing Minnesota by Kaija Wilkinson, the Anoka County Government Center called on companies all with offices in Minneapolis in spite of receiving bids from the major OEMs. Van Deusen and Associates, Schumacher Elevator and G&R Custom Elevator Cabs pulled off a major facelift that brought the elevators up to code and addressed ADA issues as well. The units were 1991 vintage.

In addition to the wide range of older units being modernized in this issue, we have a report from our correspondent Dr. Lee Gray on the best new tall buildings. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) names one building a year the overall “best” and four regional winners — from the Americas, Asia & Australasia, Europe and the Middle East & Africa. The winner, Bosco Verticale in Milan, Italy, means “vertical forest” and was only a few votes ahead of the new One World Trade Tower in New York City. Dr. Gray notes that there is almost never complete agreement among CTBUH members who vote and the judging panel, but the panel has great leeway in choosing from the more than 100 entries. On our cover is one of the finalists among the best tall buildings, Evolution Tower in Moscow.  🌐

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Elevator World | February 2016 Cover

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