By Courtney Cartmill, Condominium Manager – Waterloo Regional Office
Users of the approximately 19,900 residential and institutional elevators in Ontario take approximately 655,000 elevator trips in a single day, according to Delta Elevator. And elevators are essential to the mobility of many of these users, who include residents and guests of condominium corporations.
As such, it’s important to ensure users who rely on elevators to get around have access to this vertical transportation when needed. Part of that is maintaining and repairing elevators, as well as replacing them altogether when the time comes, to avoid un-planned down-time.
However, these activities may also require planned elevator down-time. There are certain factors that should be considered when preparing for both planned and un-planned elevator down-time.
Maintaining and repairing elevators
Preventative maintenance helps keep elevators up and running in good working order. And it’s not just about ensuring that they undergo regularly scheduled inspections. Preventative maintenance includes receiving feedback from the elevator mechanic on potential repairs. Quotes should be included with the reports when suggested or mandatory repairs are found.
Managers may then take measures to get these repairs completed. When planning for elevator down-time, managers should consider all other possible changes that may be needed, including ensuring the elevator is up to current code requirements. Having all repairs scheduled at one time is the best way to utilize an elevator mechanic’s time. Ensuring that the preventative maintenance is effective is also crucial.
Having a third-party consultant perform a maintenance evaluation will ensure that all areas of a building’s elevator needs are being addressed. Elevator mechanics have several units on their routes, which can cause items to be missed. It is important to get a second opinion when there are concerns about a particular elevator. Sometimes a second set of eyes can simply see something the first set did not.
A maintenance evaluation is different from a safety inspection. This does not mean that a safety inspector does not look at maintenance. However, while they may write up a dirty pit, they lack extensive maintenance and mechanical knowledge. A maintenance evaluation will make sure elevators are being properly serviced.
Maintenance logs should also be reviewed regularly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or meet with the mechanic on site to get a better understanding of the building’s elevators and their condition.
Replacing and updating elevators
At a certain point in the life cycle of an elevator, it will come time to consider full replacement in order to continue providing reliable elevator service in a building. A full elevator replacement may seem difficult to justify, but due to new code requirements and parts of older model elevators becoming obsolete, it may be something to consider sooner rather than later.
A replacement project takes extensive planning. Seeking feedback from the consultant’s previous clients may assist managers in covering areas they may not have considered. Consulting with the condo corporation’s fire protection company on this type of project is also important to ensure that the fire panel is compatible with the update. Many elevator modernizations end up requiring a new fire panel that can pinpoint exact locations of trouble signals, whether it’s the elevator room or a smoke alarm. Having this information as a part of the bid process will save headaches when attempting to finish the project.
If there is a generator that allows an elevator to continue to operate during a power outage, including the generator company on this project will ensure that the generator is compatible to offer this service during a power outage. Lastly, don’t forget keep the budget and financial adviser up to date on the project, including about additional items such as the fire panel and generator that may require changes. It is important to have all parties involved with the project attend a “pre-construction” meeting to put all inquiries on the table and make sure everyone is on the same page. Having surprises during the middle of a lengthy project just adds stress to the project managers, clients and residents.
Planning for elevator down-time
On-site time for elevator installation crews ranges from about two weeks for an accessibility lift, to four weeks for a hydraulic elevator, to six weeks for a traction elevator. Reviewing the accessibility concerns of occupants in the building prior to starting a project of this size is crucial — especially if there is only one elevator.
Users may also be seniors with mobility issues, and it is important that their needs are considered if an elevator is out of service. Installing a stair lift for the duration of a project would be beneficial if many of the users are seniors.
Also consider scheduling projects for when a building is least active. If many residents of a building go away in the winter, this may be the best time to make the changes.
Alert all residents or commercial clients to elevator down-time with notices, which should also be posted on every level the elevator services prior to the date of work and for the duration of down-time. The notices should also advise occupants of alternate options for users with mobility issues or who require assistance transporting large items.
Update notices weekly to keep residents and commercial clients aware of the progress of the project. And consider including a penalty for every day that the contractor is behind schedule, but also offer a bonus if the contractor comes out ahead of schedule.
Supporting the users who rely on elevators comes down to being proactive with maintenance and repairs, planning carefully when full replacements are required and providing a flow of communication before and during scheduled down-time.