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Compact Elevator Operators

Creating more rentable space for property owners

Thursday, December 22, 2016

by Ralph M. Newman

Source: Elevator World

Elevator Car-side operator, center opening

Car-side operator, center opening

Elevator Shaft-side landing mechanism, center opening

Shaft-side landing mechanism, center opening

In today’s new-construction and modernization environment, it’s all about compressing time to save money and idealizing space to achieve maximized rental revenues. “To look at this in ‘elevator’ terms,” says Louis “L.J.” Blaiotta, Jr., CEO of Columbia Elevator Products Co., Inc. “The less space our elevators occupy, the more space the building owners have available to rent, and the more quickly and cost efficiently we can deliver these space-saving products, the more competitive and, therefore, happier, are our customers.”

Responding to these market realities has meant seeking ways to reduce elevator shaft size, while remaining code compliant, an industry challenge most recently addressed via the elimination of the elevator machine and controller rooms and substitution of a machine-room-less (MRL) elevator system. Throughout the building structure, today’s MRL units effectively move the mechanical lifting mechanisms and electronic controller systems into the shaft. And, as all space occupied by today’s modern elevator mechanical and electronic systems has already been reduced to optimize rentable square footage for the building owner, the industry, now in a quest for even further space savings, is turning its attention to the elevator system’s architectural components.

Since there is no allowable way to reduce cab interior space available to the riding public without affecting capacity, shaft space savings are achievable by, virtually, only a single option: modifying the operator/track structure to gain as much space as possible in the depth of the car. Explains Blaiotta:

“Up to this point, much has been accomplished via the deployment of our ALURE® system, and the Robusta operator, a product we’ve been offering via our partnership with Spain-based Fermator (ELEVATOR WORLD, July 2016). While both of these linear systems produce significant weight reduction and space savings atop the car – an extremely valuable shaft space saver, considering all of the new top-of-car overhead clearance issues generated with the advent of the MRL elevator – neither of these products, in their standard configurations, did anything to reduce the overall depth of the car as compared with earlier harmonic operator installations.

“In the case of the Robusta line, this was intentionally engineered, by design, to mirror the space requirements of the harmonic operator, so as to make it backward compatible for modernizations and enable installation of these linear operators in the preexisting spaces. Specifically, the distance between the door backs and the running clearance is held at 2 in. on both the cab and hatch sides of each landing to mimic what typical harmonic operators employing linkage arms and clutches need in that space. Bottom line, while Robusta’s approach saved a good deal of overhead space, it did not serve to eliminate any of the 4-in. door clutch and pickup roller space between the car and hatch doors to reduce car depth.”

Similarly, Columbia’s ALURE, in its basic configuration, also respected the legacy space requirements of the traditional harmonic operator. Costlier pocket-door versions of ALURE were developed to eliminate virtually all the entrance space in the shaft, but these were limited in the sizes available to bear a full Underwriters Laboratories fire rating, while requiring careful coordination with other trades to successfully interface with the building structure.

The market today is demanding solutions to remove as much shaft space as possible. As the cost of new construction continues to march upward, and landlords seek to devote less and less space to common, non-rentable areas (and look to cut expenses wherever possible), the need has developed for a new, lower-cost operator/entrance combination to minimize the space requirements of the architectural components of the elevator system. With the between-the-doors space the only remaining area available to reduce car depth, it is the focus of the next-generation operator solution, designed to eliminate the clutches and other mechanisms previously occupying that space. Going this route additionally delivers the architectural advantage of using increasingly popular glass doors with a vision area consisting entirely of see-through, uncluttered views.

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