Building amenities are often taken for granted, especially the elevator. But elevators serve more than just avoiding a workout or creating awkward silences with neighbors; they accommodate residents unable to climb stairs and are critical for deliveries and facilitating maintenance workers. At a certain point, an elevator will need maintenance, or possibly even replacement. The key is to identify problem areas before a breakdown occurs.
“Elevators are not like automobiles,” says Lee Rigby, president of Vertical Assessment Associates in Tallahassee. “They are more like a building where there are different life spans for some of the different major components of the equipment. So, for example, while a driving machine might last for 30 to 35 years, a controller will typically last for 20.”
Even if a building owner is diligent when it comes to maintaining their elevators, at a certain point, an impasse may arise and a complete overhaul is needed.
“As elevators get older the frequency of their failures could potentially be greater so just like humans they need more care. Therefore, so on the older systems if you want to prolong their useful life, you would step up the elevator maintenance,” says Mike West, manager of Oracle Elevator in Ft. Lauderdale.
“If you asked me that in 1990, we would say that elevators last 30 to 45 years. Asking that today is a little bit of an unknown because we see computerized equipment aging and moving at such a rapid rate. A newer, modernized system is going to operate closer to 20 years as result,” says West.
Maintenance should be done consistently on an elevator; “…adjustments, lubrication, tightening things, whatever it takes to make sure the elevator is running smoothly,” says Andrew Grabin, manager of new construction at Mowrey Elevator in Davie.
“The maintenance section of the elevator code has fotten much more intense, especially with record keeping. The repair of elevators can only be done by licensed personnel working for registered elevator companies. There are things the building owner can do like keeping the door’s protective edges clean and to be familiar with some special features of the elevator such as fire service operation,” says Rigby.
“Under Florida law, all elevators have to meet the safety code that was in effect when the permit was applied for. If an elevator is altered that alteration needs to meet the code for at the time the permit was applied for. ASME-A17.3, a code that was put into place in 2008, is a safety code for existing elevators that requires all elevators and escalators be brought up to a new minimum standard,” says Rigby.
“In South Florida the trend used to be the summertime for elevator work, but as Florida changed its demographics, it’s not as seasonal as it was 15 to 20 years ago, people live here year round like they never have before. Still, in most cases the summer is the least busy time, so the summer is when we typically do the lion’s share of these modernization projects,” says West, “If you have three elevators and each one takes three to four months to perform, many times you would start the project in February, you get the bulk of the work done in the summer when everyone is out of town and try to get it all done before next year’s busy season. On these larger scale projects it’s very difficult to get it 100 percent done during the summer.”