Category Archives: Uncategorized

Modular Ready for Disaster

Credit Mark Murray
Photo Credit – MassLive/Mark Murray

Imagine if a tornado or other act of nature destroyed your local school just before summer break and just twelve weeks prior to the first day of class for the next school year.  What would you do then? How would you meet the needs of the community, students and teachers? This time of year with hurricane season bearing down on us, it is a distinct possibility that a damaging storm could occur.

Elias Brookings Elementary School in Springfield, Massachusetts was faced with that problem.  It was June 1, 2011 when a tornado moved quickly through the city, leaving damage to property and four dead in its path. Significant damage was done to some of the school buildings, leaving Brookings Elementary unusable.

With classes for the next school year slated to start on August 29th, options were limited, so a bold plan was announced. An entire functioning temporary two-story classroom building would be operational by the first bell of the new school year, to be used while a new building would be planned and constructed. Complicating matters was that two-stories were needed for the temporary school building due to the limited space available on the property, so an elevator had to be part of the package.

Modular was the only solution.

Modular Saves the Day
Photo Credit – MassLive/Mark Murray

Phone calls were made, meetings were held, plans were drawn up and within weeks modular classrooms were being hoisted into place. The elevator was designed, built, shipped and installed in just six weeks.

For people not familiar with the elevator industry, that accomplishment is nearly miraculous, despite the fact that we do it every day. Most elevator construction, including the hoistway, takes 8 months or more, not eight weeks. The good news for Brookings Elementary, the staff, teachers, students and parents, is that school was opened as promised, on time.

School Opens on Time
Photo Credit – MassLive/Mark Murray

Regardless of the disaster, there are times that buildings and vertical transportation are needed quickly, and modular buildings and elevators can help save the day. Sometimes modular helps reduce costs of business interruption or enables school to open quickly or on time. In some circumstances, like for Brookings, modular is the only solution.

Also, in this case a temporary fix was needed, but offsite construction is more flexible and faster to install than standard stick-built projects, whether it is temporary or permanent. If you are in a situation that needs a fast building solution, modular building should be considered.


An MRL Still Needs a Pit

basis-brooklyn-mrl-finalEveryday at Phoenix Modular we field questions about elevators. When we get the same question multiple times, we usually make it the subject of a blog post as it’s likely that there are more people out there with a similar inquiry. A question that we are getting on a near-monthly basis often goes something like this…

Caller: I was doing some research about machine room-less elevators, and thought about maybe getting one installed and I was wondering if it still needed a pit?

PME: Well, we do provide machine room-less elevators (MRLs), but they do need a pit as all commercial quality elevators do. There are components that have to go under everything and just putting the motor at the top does not change the need for a pit.

Click for the rest of the conversation and the solution.

More than Magic – Elevator Technician Check List

trick-859307_1920The elevator technician checks in at the office on the routine maintenance stop and then disappears for quite some time. You may see the tech coming and going but, more often than not, he seems almost Mercurial in his appearing and disappearing.  This leads many to wonder if another dimension exists beyond the walls of the hoistway or what tricks he may have up his sleeve and, if this is not the case, what exactly is going on between appearances or short walks to the service van.

Turns out, most of the time spent is not actually turning wrenches, but checking the elevator from head to toe or the top of the hoistway to the pit. All elevator technicians or their companies should be able to provide you with a comprehensive list of the things they look at and do every time they show up for routine maintenance.

Abracadabra…click for the whole story.


Elevator Company Comments Out of Order

Out of OrderA recent news story focused on a major elevator company and poor service regarding a building with senior tenants. It revealed an unflattering look at the vertical transportation industry. In this case, despite having a current maintenance contract in place, the elevators in a 10-story apartment complex were frequently down. Unfortunately, the response from the elevator company made the elevator industry look like it was either hiding from responsibility or looking for a quick sale. Neither are good images.

As for background , when the story broke, the senior citizen tenants of the building were quickly labeled as victims by the media, while the elevator company was cast as the villain. No surprise. It portrayed people stuck in their apartments because the elevator maintenance was not prompt or completed improperly. When pushed by the media, the explanation for the apparent lack of service from the big elevator company shines a disturbing light on the industry. Below is the lone quote from the elevator service company…

Find out what they said and why it was out of order here.

Proprietary Equipment Driving Costs Up

Up arrowThe National Association of Elevator Contractors (NAEC) is now openly questioning practices involving proprietary equipment that can lead to increased costs for building owners. This is especially applicable if you are thinking about a modernization or new elevator. The following was taken directly from the NAEC website:

Members of the National Association of Elevator Contractors have observed over the last 50 years, a trend in the products and practices common in construction and modernization of elevators, that we believe can be contrary to the long term interests of building owner / managers – our customers. In an attempt to raise awareness of this issue, we have generated this document.

The elevator industry, like most, is under increasing pressure to supply products and services at ever more competitive prices. Driven by this, and rightfully so, all companies have worked hard to develop products that are less expensive to manufacture and install. All other things being equal, a lowered delivered cost is definitely a benefit to everyone involved in an elevator project.

If a building owner can buy an equivalent product or service at a lower price, that is a good thing, but too often we see a contractors lowered costs result in even higher costs for the building. With elevator systems, a savings at the initial purchase decision often results in substantial increases in cost over the life of the equipment.

Equipment that is designed with only lower manufacturing and installation costs taken into account can result in higher monthly maintenance costs, and higher overall costs, because:

  • The products can be very proprietary. When this is the case, the building often finds that there are no other (other than the installer) contractors able / willing to bid on monthly maintenance. A contractor can take advantage of this lack of competition.
  • It contains dependent components. When this is the case, the failure of a single component of the elevator system can necessitate replacement of other components.
  • Components cost more. When a contractor has only one source of replacement parts, the cost of those replacement parts is likely to be higher.
  • When products are designed with the manufacturing and installation costs as the highest priority, they may not have as long an expected service life.

Too often, and more frequently as time goes by, we see one or more of these scenarios befall a building if and when they do not understand the long term results of their initial purchasing decision.

The bottom line is that cheaper upfront costs for elevators may be a trap for longer term expenses.

It is our hope you thoroughly study all options when considering your vertical transportation needs. Whether you are installing a new elevator, modernizing an existing elevator or pricing an elevator maintenance package, you should consider your costs carefully.  Ask questions not only about the upfront costs, but also ways an elevator will affect long-term maintenance. Get several options before jumping in and always ask about proprietary parts and avoid them if possible.