Modernizing Vertical-Transportation Systems

Nov. 2, 2006
This checklist will help make sure that your next elevator/escalator modernization is successful

Elevator-modernization projects can drain your time - and your budget - if you don’t plan ahead and establish objectives early on. These tips will keep your project on track ...

Complete an extensive maintenance and reliability check. Knowing that the demands on elevator equipment are often very high, one of the first tasks should involve the implementation of an extensive maintenance program. A robust maintenance and reliability check on existing elevator equipment prior to project initiation can help maximize and enhance performance during modernization. After conducting a reliability check, you’ll know what to expect out of your existing equipment, which equipment to keep (or dispose of), and how to use existing equipment more resourcefully.

Determine what will be expected of the elevator systems. Will the elevators be used for the same functions as they were before the modernization? Will there be increased traffic in the future? Are there times when the elevator systems are busiest? In buildings that cater to tourists or visitors, facilities managers need to remember that, even after-hours (when there aren’t any visitors), the elevators may need to function for general traffic (such as employees, custodial staff, etc.). This can also determine which components can be retained.

Find out if the modernization needs to accommodate special situations. Today, most elevator modernizations have to accommodate full occupancy of the building and existing building constraints (such as not disturbing the exterior façade, working within a certain amount of space, etc.). In these types of situations, project planning and timelines are most essential. In any situation, make sure to clearly explain which elevators will be out of commission for building tenants/occupants (and how long they’ll be unavailable) and select and highlight specific elevators, escalators, or stairways as alternatives. It’s also important to give consideration to building/tenant support functions (such as freight delivery and moving).

Plan to address demolition or construction dust. Elevators require clean environments for safe and reliable operation. During the modernization process, this can be a challenge considering all of the construction dust in the air. Special temporary housings that shroud the elevator-control equipment may be necessary, as well as the installation of HVAC equipment to filter air and keep elevator equipment cool (modernization conditions may sometimes challenge the elevator equipment and the project team because of hot, cramped, and dusty working environments).

Explore methods to maximize the efficiency of both old and new elevators. Find out if your elevator company offers an “overlay” or has a method that will enable the modernized elevators to work with the old system. This is especially important when one or two elevators are being modernized while the others remain in service to move tenants and visitors. User delays, confusion, and service issues will be greatly reduced.

Success depends on open communication across the entire project team. Innovation and resourceful problem-solving are key. Within one project may fall many sub-projects - each with its own critical interactions and interconnections. Assembling the project team as quickly as possible (and making it a goal to communicate daily) will help the process run smoothly; involving third-party contractors from the start of project conception often helps resolve many of the design complexities involved in an elevator-modernization project.

Drew Papio is director of modernizations at Morristown, NJ-based Schindler Elevator Corp. (

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