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Columbia Elevator Advances the Upgrade of Cabs

Saturday, June 1, 2019

by Ralph M. Newman

Source: Elevator World

Elevator World May 2019


In today’s real estate universe, rising together with the ever-escalating heights of today’s “super-talls” is the incidence of elevator modernization, and there are numerous reasons why. Prominent among them is that these new structures and additional available space are creating competition for tenants and the market-driven need for landlords of existing properties to upgrade them to retain their current occupants and attract new ones. This is particularly true of the elevators and lobby, the components of the building with which its occupants and their visitors engage most frequently. Other drivers may be the desire to achieve energy and cost savings by upgrading to updated technologies, or meeting accessibility requirements. Yet another may be changes indirectly triggered by code considerations, for example, as is currently the case in New York City, where, by the end of 2019, there is now a requirement to install elevator door lock monitoring systems on all automatic elevators. While this code change addresses safety and has nothing to do with esthetics, some building owners and managers, while being made to focus on changes to their elevator cabs, are being moved at the same time into upgrading them to some degree. Even further, a code compliance trigger of this kind can lead to a full-blown modification, beyond merely a light touch-up, with the building owner reasoning something like, “hey, while we’re doing the door monitoring, we may as well use the opportunity to change the door operator, but as long as we’re doing that, maybe it’s time to hang new doors, and if we do that, then the walls and the front won’t look right, so let’s do the whole cab.”

The primary underlying cause, however, may simply be a function of the continuously-growing nature of real estate development, as LJ Blaiotta, CEO of Columbia Elevator Products, explains: “Over time, new installation equipment goes in every year, which, by definition, causes the overall installed base of elevator equipment to continuously increase. This base eventually grows older and in need of maintenance and upgrade. Elevators are not taken out of service unless the building comes down, and, until it does, there will be an elevating device in that building. Consequently, the pool of elevators needing to be modernized is expanding every year, fed on the front end by the steadily increasing number of annual new construction installations.”

Modernization patterns tend to run in phases, depending on the economic conditions of the time. During boom times, widespread new construction drives modernization because landlords are improving their existing properties to retain tenants. During down economic periods, especially prolonged ones, a certain level of maintenance and modernization becomes necessary as installed equipment ages to the point of becoming “old” and in existential need of help. Glossing over the situation with incremental touch-up fixes can grow to become overbearing in terms of frequency, aggravation, downtime and cost, leading to a point when the best and most efficient course is to do what the elevator industry colloquially terms a “mod.”

Continues Blaiotta: “When the economy is up, mod work and new construction both go up, with ‘new’ rising relatively faster. In a recession, both categories slow down, but the ratio between the two changes, as new construction decreases relatively faster and we do a lot more mod work. As a manufacturer, we need to be sensitive to and properly positioned for these phases. But, big picture, no matter what the environment, demand for mod work is always high and we at Columbia are perpetually looking for new ways to make it better for the installing mechanics: to deliver needed components ever more quickly and cost-effectively, and to make the work as quick, safe and fool-proof as possible to install in the field.”

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