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Columbia Helps Southern California Grow “Up” Part V: Conquering Aesthetic Challenges

Louis "LJ" Blaiotta, Jr. on Monday, April 2, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

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Columbia Elevator Car-side interlock
Columbia’s car-side interlock: For transparent architectural environments featuring glass cabs and shafts, Columbia has developed this nonvisible device to eliminate and replace the steel fascia routinely included in elevator installations to prevent passengers from leaving a car outside the unlocking zone. It is installed between the top of the car’s glass window and the roller on the hanger above.

California’s growth and expansion is like the changes we are seeing in cities across America. Let’s look at the region’s escalating growth of Los Angeles Airport (LAX), which is home to ongoing modernization and construction of new terminals. The new terminals are dramatic architectural expressions, with high ceilings, glass everywhere, and elevators being built with this same contemporary aesthetic.

Far from simply utilitarian, LAX is installing all-glass cars, which rise up into vaulted glass atriums. Because these elevators are all-glass, visibility of their inner workings becomes an issue, specifically with respect to the fascia routinely included for safety reasons. With this all-glass aesthetic, the architects do not want to see a “view-obstructing” steel fascia, the traditional method of preventing passengers from escaping the car in certain circumstances. To satisfy the architects, the customer came to Columbia Elevator to innovate another system that provides this essential protection without being visible.

Traditionally, on a standard entrance with a blind shaftway, where nobody can see inside, to protect passengers between floors in the event an elevator becomes stuck, a curtain of sheet metal is installed to minimize the gap between the back of the door and the shaftway wall. Known as fascia, this steel curtain hangs down from the sill of the floor above and ends at the header of the entrance below, where the doors are supported and moved on a track, thereby not extending into the doorway itself. While a very effective safety measure, when aesthetics mandate an all-glass shaftway, nobody wants to see a curtain of steel hanging there. Past attempts to solve this problem with glass or clear polycarbonate fascias proved unsatisfactory, as these collected dust, looked unsightly and eventually clouded the view. So, we set about finding a technological solution that would eliminate the fascia altogether.

Let’s get a bit technical and review how elevators are designed to keep its occupants safe.

  • If an elevator stalls within the “unlocking zone” – defined by current code as just a few inches above and below a landing – passengers can open the doors and leave the car.
  • Outside the unlocking zone, there must be a mechanism for keeping passengers in the car for extraction by some other means.
  • Traditionally, this has been done by outfitting the door operator with a restrictor, basically a hook that holds the door in a locked position. Such hooks on the car side have no safety circuit to monitor whether the hook is engaged. While the car side does have a gate switch indicating that the car door is closed, it does not indicate if the restrictor is locked.

With a glass shaftway, in the absence of a fascia, if a passenger were to somehow open the car door in between floors, there would be enough space between the car door and shaft wall for a potential fall out of the car. Conversely, on the landing side, every single elevator door has an interlock, an electro-mechanical device with a contact that, when the hook is engaged, closes the circuit and tells the elevator that it is safe to run. If the hatch door is closed and the interlock hook does not engage with the receiver to close the circuit, the elevator will not run. A similar electro-mechanical device, tied into the safety circuit, is needed on the car door to mimic the safety features found on the hatch doors.

For the LAX job, the architects came to our OEM customer, who in turn came to us, seeking a way to eliminate the fascia without losing the passenger protection. What we did was redesign and re-purpose our MAC® hatch door interlock to work with the door operators on the car side. Since the car doors in this application are all glass as well, the space available to position a car door interlock is extremely limited.

On a conventional hatch door, where there is no glass, the clutch and pickup rollers are near the middle of the door, lifting the interlock that is positioned up on the hangers. The long rod that links the pickup rollers and the interlock allows the lock, under its own weight, to open and close on its own. But when there is a large glass window, these unsightly mechanisms must be eliminated, while the space for a replacement, between the top of the glass and the roller on the hanger, is very small.

  • We successfully devised a compact interlock system that would not have all that mass and weight to make it close, would fit into that small space, and is certifiable by UL® and the CSA (Canadian Standards Association).
  • These car-side interlocks are subject to the same stringent A17 code requirements as the hatch-door interlocks, including testing for about one million cycles to simulate a 30-year life, and salt-water baths to test for exposure to the elements.
  • Aside from LAX, Columbia is installing these in other buildings where the demand is for very high-end, all-glass architecture, including high-rises such as the Salesforce Building and 399 Freemont Avenue in San Francisco, and low-rise shopping plazas such as the Beverly Center in Los Angeles.

To the best of my knowledge, Columbia’s car interlock is the only such device approved by California’s DOSH (Department of Occupational Safety and Health).

Led by California, the West Coast is finally getting its share of skyscrapers, and other cities and regions are following. Columbia remains committed to such innovations that contribute to the vertical and aesthetic growth of the American landscape; and, at Columbia, this type of Innovation is Standard!




Columbia Helps Southern California Grow “Up” Part IV: Columbia Elevator’s Strategic Packaging Approach

Louis "LJ" Blaiotta, Jr. on Monday, March 19, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

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Columbia ElevatorI’ve made note before that we at Columbia are always working in response to industry needs. That is why we have developed an exclusive Strategic Packaging Service. Originally designed for our customers who build high-end, super-tall, and uniquely decorative elevators, it has been used by developers of small and mid-rise construction as well. We work with customers in advance to determine how to get them what is critical for each stage of construction. We stagger and stage shipments so that customers receive what they need, precisely when they need it.

Our strategic system of crating techniques - sending the first-needed pieces of each entrance, then later the decorative frame, following up later with the decorative doors – has been used effectively and with great success.  

  • To begin, we send the roughs for the first ‘jump,’ typically consisting of 10 floors.
  • At a later pre-determined date, we ship the roughs for next 10 floors and we ship the frames for the first 10 floors.
  • Later still, when we ship the roughs for the third jump, we send the doors for the first jump and the frames for the second jump.
  • This process continues progressively until the building reaches its eventual height.

Most important to note, within each phased shipment, the door finishes are specific to the requirements of its particular jump, allowing the developers to quickly cap and close each jump as it is completed. This allows them to begin the process of renting the space so that “tenant interior” work can commence. In some cases of multi-building complexes, we are now seeing retail stores opening at the ground level well before the building is completed.

Looking again at the way we are supporting southern California’s rapid skyward expansion; aesthetic horizons are expanding as well. We’ve supported the building of structures that are aesthetically varied and intricate. I’ll tell you how next time.



Picking up the Pen in honor of my father, Mr B

Louis "LJ" Blaiotta, Jr. on Friday, March 2, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

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Louis LJ BlaiottaFirst, I want to express my gratitude for the many notes, phone calls, and letters my family and I have received after the loss of my father and Columbia Elevator Founder, Lou Blaiotta. It has given us great comfort to know that so many people loved him as much as we did.

My father launched Lou’s Lessons on the Columbia Elevator Products web site in February 2013.  Because he believed in educating the public about elevators, especially elevator safety, Dad poured over each blog entry with due diligence. 

It is with a heavy heart and a lot of responsibility that I will pick up the pen to maintain and preserve Dad’s commitment to the elevator industry. I hope I will do as good a job as my father who was always affectionately known by our employees as Mr. B. 

I will start by using some of his notes for upcoming blog entries to carry through on his message and then begin new entries. If there are any topics that you want me to cover in the future, please let me know, and together, we will keep alive Lou Blaiotta’s vision of elevator elegance and safety.