Planned Lift Upgrade

Gareth Lomax from Ardent Lift Consultancy provides a case study for a recent refurbishment scheme.

Lift Background

In the UK, most of our major cities are reaching the point where space is now at a premium, with fewer and fewer areas to build new homes. But thanks to the passenger lift, there are always opportunities to build vertically, maximising the space allocated by the footprint of a property.

Many residential blocks benefit from having a lift installed to access upper floors, where less able bodied residents, young mothers with pushchairs and the Waitrose delivery drivers find them invaluable!

From 1930’s mansion blocks with ornate mesh clad lifts, 1960’s block conversions with the lift squeezed into a stairwell, to modern property with purpose built lift shafts; with each differing style and design of building, there are often just as many varying designs of lift.

The modern passenger lift has roots in the mid 1800’s and has undergone numerous transformations with the advancement of technology, with safety levels always at the forefront of these changes, making lift travel one of the safest modes of transportation in the world.

However, because of the safety first attitude of the industry, standards are forever being reviewed and amended, meaning lifts (even relatively modern lifts) can often be behind the current safety levels of new technology – though still considered safe for public usage.

Case Study: Queens Court, Richmond

Further to the article on refurbishment/replacement in September issue of Flat Living Magazine, we felt a case study would further demonstrate the benefits of correctly specifying lift works, to ensure the Client obtains best value.

We were instructed to review the seven lifts located within a beautiful “Deco” 1940’s residential apartment block. The lifts were originally installed with the construction of the property and the five floor traction lifts had been partially refurbished in the early 1990’s, but had reached a stage where further investment was required to provide a safe, efficient and reliable service over the long term.

The existing lifts were identical in design, all utilising single speed machines and dated control systems which offered poor ride quality. The units were no longer compliant to current legislation and numerous health and safety items required attention.

Ardent Lift Consultancy were appointed to manage the project; the lifts were surveyed and we surmised that the project required a lighter level of refurbishment, as the lifts were in keeping with “Deco” design of the property and a full refurbishment scheme would lose important character (not to mention cost the client more).

A refurbishment scheme was recommended to the client and discussed, to ensure reliability, safety and performance levels were all achieved, within the budgetary constraints. The project was specified and tendered to four contractors to obtain a competitive price for our client. Two of the four tender returns were within our original budget costs, outlined in our initial survey report. The two most competitive tenderers were invited to a post-tender meeting to discuss the proposed equipment being offered, length of site programmes, warranty periods, etc. to ensure our client obtained best value. The successful lift contractor was then appointed to undertake refurbishment of the lifts, which included all remedial building works.

Lift Car Interiors

The original timber panelling was retained as it remained in a good condition and suited the design of the property. The lift car lighting was replaced with a modern brass trimmed energy efficient LED panel and the surrounding timber was painted in a matt white paint. The car door operator was replaced and new brass car door panels were installed incorporating full height non-contact safety edges to protect the passenger from accidental collision. A new hard wearing tile effect black flooring was installed and the surrounding car skirting was finished in a black gloss. The car operating panel is finished in brass with the indicator and floor buttons having a black background with a white illumination. A mirror with a brass surround was installed to the rear wall to provide the lift car with an authentic look to complement the property.

Lift Motor Room

The refurbishment works undertaken within the motor room included the replacement of the hoisting machines, lift control systems and health and safety compliance. The single speed lift machines were replaced by geared alternatives, to ensure a smooth and comfortable ride. The machines utilise a rope brake system to ensure EN81-A3 compliance was achieved. The motor room floor has been sealed and painted in an oil retardant red paint, new localised machine guarding and checker plating to the machine raft has been installed to improve safety and accessibility to machinery.

New GSM phone units were installed within the motor room which are connected to the car operating panel within the lift car providing the lifts at the property with 24hr emergency communication to the incumbent service provider to ensure the quick release of trapped passengers in the event of lift failure. The controller has been replaced with a UK based open protocol control system and a drive unit utilising VVVF (Variable Voltage, Variable Frequency) technology, increasing energy efficiency and replacing the sudden “crash bang” of the original system with a smooth and controlled ride with near perfect floor levelling accuracy. The advantage of the new control system being UK based and open protocol in design means maintenance can now be competitively tendered to the open market thus reducing long term maintenance costs. Furthermore, in the unfortunate event of component failure replacement parts can be sourced within days rather than months (if having to be obtained from the European market) reducing time and inconvenience to residents.

Lift Shaft

The original equipment housed on the lift car tops was in worn condition, cumbersome and poorly positioned, restricting working man space. The shaft had substandard lighting levels which also made the lifts difficult to maintain. The car door operators were replaced; the new operators house slim electrical motors utilising VVVF technology, improving car door operation and performance. The car top controls were also upgraded and repositioned to provide clear working space. The shaft was painted white and new shaft lighting has been installed offering improved lux levels and emergency lighting facility within the shaft. The refurbishment of the lift cars has increased the available working man space on the car tops and with the upgraded shaft lighting has provided a safer and brighter working environment for maintenance personnel which will in turn increase lift maintenance levels, reliability and promote longevity of equipment.

Lift Pits

The lift pits were full of debris and had water ingress issues, during the refurbishment works the water issue was addressed and the debris removed. As part of the works the pit has been sealed in an oil retardant red paint. Polyurethane car and counterweight buffers have been installed to aid with energy absorption in the event of collision (protecting passengers and equipment alike) and with the addition of new shaft lighting has created a much improved and safer working environment for maintenance personnel.

Project Management

The project was carefully managed together with Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward and the Queens Court Board. Careful consideration was put into the programme of works to ensure the lift works being undertaken at the property caused minimal disruption to residents who most relied on the lift installations. It was decided to start the refurbishment with the most unreliable of the seven lifts. The refurbishment was completed and the lift subsequently returned to service within the 8-week period agreed within the programme of works. The refurbishment works to the six remaining lifts was undertaken on a rolling programme basis and has now seen all lifts refurbished, tested and returned to operational service.

The project undertaken at Queens Court had to ensure budgetary constraints were adhered to and provide a compliant and reliable lift service with a design life of circa 20/25 years. The installation of new lifts would have doubled the client’s expenditure, increased programme of works, caused greater disruption to residents and removed a key element of the original design. The fine balance between integrating old and new has been challenging, but the end result has exceeded our client’s expectations. The residents at the property now benefit from a modern and reliable lift service, boasting new hoisting machines and control equipment coupled with VVVF drives to ensure an energy efficient, smooth, comfortable and reassuring service. A well planned and executed refurbishment scheme has proven to be of great financial benefit and has allowed the building to retain the charm and aesthetic appeal of the original timber car interiors, whilst providing the same technical advantages (energy consumption, ride quality, code compliances and health and safety) of a new lift installation.

Chris Chaney, a director of the freehold company and a resident of Queens Court said, “We are very pleased with the outcome of this project which met all our expectations, giving us reliable lifts which no longer shake and rattle their way up and down the shafts. We found Ardent a pleasure to work with, always ready to answer our questions and explain anything we didn’t understand. At the outset they gave us a programme of when documentation would be produced and kept to that through to the appointment of the contractor. They also gave us the opportunity and time to review all the documentation before it was sent out to the tenderers. PIP, the contractor, did an excellent job, keeping to programme and causing the minimum of disruption; the common areas were kept clean and tidy at all times. Where they could they were always ready to accommodate any requests we had. All in all we were very happy with our choice of both consultant and contractor, and they appeared to work well together.”

Lift Consultancy

With constant changes in both technology and regulations, it is very difficult to keep abreast of both, to ensure that the best value is always being obtained from the lift industry. This is where an independent expert, like ARDENT Lift Consultancy, can assist with measured, professional advice on the “must haves” along with the specific performance of equipment and contractors alike.

The correct level of Lift Consultancy can be utilised to:

  • Assess the condition of a single lift or of a whole portfolio
  • Analyse the lift requirements of a building
  • Specify a replacement or refurbishment to give the maximum value allowed within the budgetary constraints of the client

While consultants can sometimes be viewed as an added expense, an expert in a certain field will often obtain the best value from the parameters they’ve been given, which will frequently outweigh the fees they would charge for their services.

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