Prior to 5 years ago, options for elevator interior replacements fell into one of two camps:
The standard cab with pre-fabricated laminate or commodity stainless steel surfaces. Readily available through OEMs and other service contractors, these cabs provide a low-cost, straightforward solution that involves minimal decision-making.
The custom cab project. Prices and coordination time escalate rapidly in these projects, which demand extensive input from the buying party, incur architect or design fees, and require precise calculations to ensure code compliance. Also, because each order is based on one-time production, material costs are high.
There is now a third option available to facilities professionals: pre-engineered elevator interior systems. These customizable systems offer the streamlined decision-making process and ease of installation associated with standard cabs, yet the material and design selection rivals that of custom projects. Entry-level prices for pre-engineered systems are only nominally above those of standard packages. Material preferences will most likely dictate which elevator interior option is right for you:
Laminates are tried-and-true utilitarian surfaces that come in almost every color imaginable – including simulated woods. If budget is your primary concern, a standard laminate will outlast carpet or cloth wall treatments, which are more vulnerable to gouging, tearing, and nefarious odor retention.
Wood veneers are not all created equal. The most resilient product is resin-hardened wood. Manufactured with natural wood veneers that are infused – not simply coated – with a protective melamine resin, resin-hardened wood provides superior scratch and abrasion resistance. If design consistency mandates the use of wood in a high-traffic vehicle, consider a pre-engineered system that allows you to specify wood for the upper panels only. Stainless steel panels are a better choice for the “impact zones” (handrail panels, lower panels, and kick plates). This robust configuration is abuse resistant, and if wood damage occurs, it will be more economical to replace smaller panels.
Stainless steel has universal appeal; it’s durable, affordable, and needs little maintenance. While commodity stainless steel panels have long been an option for standard cabs, pre-engineered systems can incorporate textured or patterned stainless steel panels in various configurations – improving the visual impact without dramatically increasing the price. Although traditional satin and polished finishes may be retouched in the field, textures and patterns can effectively conceal fingerprinting, minor scratches, and other signs of use; and mechanically applied finishes actually strengthen the surface of the steel. Stainless steel is the preferred material for elevators that service cafeterias, healthcare providers, laboratories, or other venues with stringent hygiene standards. It’s also sustainable – the high recycled content and long life-cycle of stainless steel make it an excellent choice for green buildings.
Composite metals are made by casting real metal granules in a tough polymer matrix. These highly detailed sculptural surfaces have the character and appearance of warm and cool metals, and can be used to complement almost any environment. Rugged enough for impact zones, the light weight of these castings makes them ideal for elevator interiors.
Laura Camp is marketing communications manager at Carpinteria, CA-based Forms+Surfaces (www.forms-surfaces.com).