Renovating Elevator Cabs

Nov. 1, 2008

What you need to know about elevator upgrades

When it comes to keeping your building competitive, elevator cabs can be an afterthought, and can also paint a picture of disrepair throughout the rest of your facility if they're out of date. As the professionals at HKA Elevator Consulting, Laguna Hills, CA, put it: "If your elevator cabs look unsightly, are outdated, or [have an] odor, you're working your way toward a Class-B building."

Tommy Bowden, vice president of modernization at Frisco, TX-based ThyssenKrupp Elevator, offers two main reasons for cab renovations: aesthetics and ADA/code changes. Bowden says that modernization should also be considered to rid cabs of hazardous materials, such as products containing formaldehyde.

"If the cabs are original, and you're upgrading other [original] parts of the building, it's advisable that you upgrade the elevator cabs at the same time to complement the other building upgrades," say the professionals at HKA Elevator Consulting*. Something to realize in this case: Cab upgrades don't make elevators run better or faster. "You need to consider investing additional funds on upgrading the controls, signal fixtures, door operators, and other major components at the same time," recommends HKA. As Bowden explains, a cab renovation is basically just creating a better comfort zone for elevator users. It won't improve the elevator's functionality.

If upgrading elevator cabs is in your plans, HKA emphasizes that hiring interior designers or architects, who may not be aware of elevator codes, isn't the best route. "Many local authorities and/or unions require that anything done to an elevator be performed by, or supervised by, a qualified elevator contractor who holds a license to work on elevators." If this isn't done, elevators could be shut down or may cause injury or death. Some facilities professionals believe that anyone can do a cab renovation - and that's not true. "A company that does cab renovations must be licensed and ... up to speed on code requirements for design, weight, fire rating on materials, fabrication, and installation," says Carol Gray, Texas business development representative for Southlake, TX-based Eklund's.

"The building manager must take into consideration that the cab is only one part of a complex system," says Bowden. "Without completely understanding weight restrictions and code issues, the renovation could create elevator malfunctions." (See Keeping Elevators Up to Code, for more information.) Gray says that one common mistake involves the addition of stone flooring to an elevator with swing returns. "[It adds] so much additional weight that the elevator doesn't level any longer, and the owner incurs additional costs to rebalance the cabs."

New trends in cab renovations include lightweight materials and innovative fixtures, including monitors that display news, weather, or other information of interest. "Also of great importance, helping our environment, [are] LEED-compliant materials," says Bowden. Gray notes that stainless steel is popular in lieu of bronze metal, as are custom materials, such as glass patterns, metals, and metal etching. "As always, stone and wood veneers are timeless and trendy. Ceiling designs are always interesting, with new lighting fixtures on the horizon every year."

Leah B. Garris ([email protected]) is managing editor at Buildings magazine.

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