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When Will We Go Back to the Office?

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10-Year Award recipient 1 Bligh Street in Sydney boasts an Otis VT system that includes 15 elevators — eight atrium units featuring curved-glass walls; photo © H.G. Esch for CTBUH.

On average, just a quarter of workers in the 10 biggest urban areas in North America have returned to offices, according to The Week. Paul Leonard, a management consultant at CoStar, a real estate research firm, believes office visits may reach 50% by Labor Day and 80% at year’s end. He computes that 10% of the workforce will stay home permanently to work. One-third of the rest will come back five days a week, and the other two-thirds will work a hybrid week of two days in the office and three days at home. Even though 40% of office workers prefer working from home, 70% believe their workplaces are more conducive to collaboration, solving complex issues, managing staff and connecting with leadership.

In NYC, existing commercial buildings are 25-30% occupied, but asset manager Nearwater Management recently signed leases for space in the Kohn Pedersen Fox-designed One Vanderbilt, a new, 1,401-ft-supertall in Midtown Manhattan, Real Estate Weekly reports. A total of at least 11 new leases signed brings occupancy to 79% at the tower.

How does this affect the vertical-transportation industry? Many of us don’t work in typical office buildings: we’re out in the field or have small suburban offices, and we were considered essential in the pandemic, so we’ve been working all along. But we need and love those big office buildings – they are our world! Right now, new construction is opening back up quickly, but maintenance and modernizations are still slow. Building owners and managers are still responding to empty existing commercial buildings and a slowdown in rental payments. In new construction, one of the big ideas to emerge now is creation of flexible spaces that can be broken down and rearranged as needed. The most popular amenities for landlords and tenants are safety features, such as app-enabled elevators.

Our focus this month is on New and Emerging Technology, which seems to bring the most response in the days following the pandemic:

  • Benefits of IoT Remote Lift Monitoring by Konstantina Parisi. Doppler’s remote monitoring allows information on a lift to be downloaded to a technician’s phone to save time and money.
  • New Uses for Existing Technology. MAD Elevator uses QR codes for a solution when ordering from the field.
  • VFD Braking Resistor Protection by Brian Holtzkamp. KEB introduces a new feature that allows the elevator drive to monitor for short circuits in the braking transistor.
  • Touch-Free Elevator Control Technology for Public Health by Dr. Nima Ziraknejad, Pranav Saxena, and Shaun Harper. HoverTap uses touch-free technology to call an elevator and control its trip.
  • NOVA Elevators Introduces Vocal Suite by Giulia Magro.  This article describes a touchless call system for home elevators, available in four languages.
  • Smart Devices in the Elevator Car by Jan Kapička and Robert Urbanek. 2N® helps solve the connectivity challenge, allowing building management to explore the full potential of their elevators without sacrificing emergency communications.
  • How to Maximize the Value of Maintenance and Service Contracts Using IoT by Peter Hasenstab. Elevator service companies can gain efficiency and open new revenue streams using digital tools and data.
  • Remote Monitoring: Risks and Rewards by Dr. Rolf Zöllner. The author warns against blindly trusting remote-monitoring systems, which do have their benefits.
  • IOT: Magic or Myth? by Dr. Rory Smith. This is an excellent review of available Internet of Things products and their uses for elevator companies.

We have several excellent Features this month. One from Hawaii on the inclined elevator into the Kahaluu Water Development Shaft, Life-Giving Lift by Eric Hausten, and another from Chile about a LEED Platinum-certified building, CEN: Heavenward’s Training Center in Chile by Carmen Maldacena. We report on the 2021 NAEC Educational Conference, held in-person in April. We also offer a CE on Rope Development and Lubrication. Not to be outdone, our historian, Dr. Lee Gray, writes about a very unusual Special Effects Elevator.

We are also very sad to say goodbye to our long-time author and friend, Zack McCain. If you have been in this industry for any length of time, you have read his books and considered them tools of the trade. He constantly gave back to this industry, and we are diminished without him.

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