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Smooth Operators: Part I - Harmonic or Linear: The Evolution of Moving Elevator Doors

Louis "LJ" Blaiotta, Jr. on Monday, December 10, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

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Typical Harmonic door operator arrangement

Typical Linear door operator arrangement

It is often said that when one door closes, another opens, and so it goes with elevator door operators. As decades-old methodologies fade into obsolescence, today’s cutting-edge technologies are opening new views into the design, installation, functionality, and maintenance of the equipment that governs the movement of elevator doors.

The old-standby – dating back to the beginning of automatic operators and still in service today – has been the harmonic operator. In addition to the oft-noted issues concerning their weight and the space they consume atop cabs, harmonic operators are possessed of several inhibiting factors. They are comprised of many mechanical parts, slow-moving, and low in mechanical efficiency with a high operating noise level.

The performance of harmonic operators can be inconsistent from floor to floor. Their DC motors with open-loop or Variable Voltage, Variable Frequency (VVVF) control are inefficient, offer no protection against voltage fluctuations, and are more vulnerable to operational failure. Another major issue we find with harmonic operator technology is that installation is a difficult, time-consuming, trial-and-error process.

Conversely, linear door operators are based on a simpler, more compact mechanical design. These perform with much higher efficiency, and, since they require no lubrication, provide the advantage of lower maintenance. The door drive is managed by a dedicated electronic board, which makes adjustment and fine-tuning much easier, with self-learning operating parameters set by a dedicated control pad. The power supply is managed by a switching device, in the range of 90 to 290V, that protects the operator from voltage fluctuations and helps avoid resulting problems.

I’ll go into more depth about electronic and digital function that make for improved and smooth operation of the operators next time.




Columbia Elevator Used Innovative Design Expertise at 56 Leonard, NYC

Louis "LJ" Blaiotta, Jr. on Monday, November 26, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

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56 Leonard Street, NYC

56 Leonard Street, NY, NY

Zero Clearance Door

Zero Clearance Door

Imagine walking into the ground floor of your condo complex, brushing past the concierge desk as you make your way toward the elevator. You press the button to take you up to your unit on the tenth floor. Seconds later, the door opens and you step out into your foyer. You are immediately greeted with breathtaking views of the NYC skyline through your 14-foot tall wall-to-wall windows and you think to yourself, “It’s good to be home!”  

Columbia Elevator helped make this imagination a reality at New York’s 56 Leonard St. condo. This luxurious building was designed by one of the world’s most renowned architects, Herzog & de Meuron, and has garnered the nickname, “the Jenga building.”

Looking back, we also made the job a reality for Schindler; initially, they didn’t think they could sell it. The architects’ design called for elevators with 36” openings, but Schindler only builds door operating equipment for openings that are 42” or wider. Schindlers internal sales reps were conditioned to just look at their quotation chart, say, “Sorry, we don’t carry this” and move on to the next potential job. A call to Columbia led to a little out-of-the-box thinking to use Schindler’s 42” wide equipment but restrict the doors to open just 36” on the 42” track.

There were several features that Columbia had to consider when designing elevator solutions at 56 Leonard.

For the Penthouse Floors with a single elevator entry to each apartment:

  • Allow private elevators to open directly into the upper-level penthouse units. We used secure, zero-clearance doors so that there is no space between the elevator door and the swing door.
  • Allow for an unobstructed, breathtaking view of the NYC skyline as soon as the door opens. This was also resolved by use of zero-clearance doors.
  • Provide UL label protection for all entrances. Columbia engineered a drywall swing frame that contained the UL label right on the swing entrance, as opposed to the sliding door. The sliding doors became simply decorative.

For the lower-level floors with two, or even four, units per floor, the elevators have regular, fire-rated UL entrances on the sliding door. Here we were able to provide support with a different design puzzle: include a built-light fixture into each entrance by using a “reverse” transom.

  • With traditional transoms, all you see is a jamb and two doors, and the transom is located right above the doors.
  • To reach the architect’s desired effect, we hung the transom down from the frame’s trim placed the transom one foot in front of the doors thereby hiding the light fixture and giving this fire-rated entrance a glow.
  • We replaced the typical 2-inch trim around the door with a hardly visible eighth of an inch-thick trim.
  • To maintain fire rating on this innovative design, we worked with UL and to get this jamb profile added to our procedure. Columbia Elevator was the first to ever built a reverse transom.

All of this was possible because Columbia Elevator was involved early on in the design phase. The architects liked the sleek and modern look so much that they decided to carry the look throughout the rest of the building. Everywhere - from the concierge desk to the pool and fitness center - features the same trim. In fact, my Estimating, Engineering, and Production teams like to say that the interior of 56 Leonard in NYC, was “elevated” because of Columbia’s creativity and design expertise!

If you have unique design issues for your elevators, contact our Customer Service Director or your Account Representative early in the process and we can successfully support your next project.








Estimating Pricing Tools: Online Pricing Tool or Price Sheet from Columbia Elevator Estimators and Account Representatives

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

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Columbia Elevator Director of Engineering Klever Calderon works closely with our Estimating Team. If you have any unique design requests, give Klever a call to discuss your needs.

In my last blog entry, The Estimator: A Key Contact for Columbia Elevator Customers, I talked about how our Estimators and Account Representatives partner with the customer to execute an accurate quote for any job. For our regular customers seeking quote for basic jobs that require little customization, our Customer Service team provides access to a special tool: Columbia’s online pricing system.  

For customers with access to this tool, the system prompts the customer to answer several global questions. Typically, it’s as simple as adding quantities to questions about specifications - like finish and configuration. Once all customer information and specification criteria are entered, the tool totals up all the selected options. The quote can then be viewed and printed in a format that can be sent directly to the customer.

Follow-up is done by Columbia’s Estimators, who review the quote and verify all content to be certain that the information is accurate and complete. For example, the Estimator or customer needs to explain, comment on, or qualify certain conditions or exclusions so that we all understand exactly what has been priced and what Columbia Elevator can provide customers. When Columbia is awarded an order for a job that was quoted online, the information gathered by the tool is sent to our Engineering team to generate submittal drawings.

For more complicated quotes or cases where the basic online pricing tool cannot adequately address complex design scenarios, Estimators utilize a price sheet and work directly with our customer to understand all aspects of a job. Because there are many variables, a more manual process and often a phone call is more efficient for ensuring the customer is getting a quote for exactly what he needs.

Working directly with an Estimator or an Account Representative is best suited to price orders that are vast in scope or range over a few years with multiple phases, many buildings, and shafts. For some of our largest jobs - such as the LAX project we handled for OTIS involving multiple shafts in different buildings with installation over a period of years - we created excel spreadsheets to keep track of all the shafts with the varying finishes and configurations. This approach provided customers with an easy-to-digest history of pricing adjustments according to specifications changes and time-line updates.

Our Estimating Team and Account Representatives are happy to help you with ordering online or manually. You can contact us at or call our Director of Customer Services at (305) 693-4239 X 2233.