Choosing the right lift expert

Gareth Lomax, Director at Ardent Lift Consultancy looks at why it is so important to get an expert opinion.

We live in an age where information is readily available at anyone’s fingertips, with mobile phones now a gateway to accessing practically any piece of information you care to find out.

Long gone are the days in your local when a random music, trivia or television question was met by a sharp intake of breath and pure concentration on everyone’s face around the table, as minds went into total recall mode. The conversation is over nearly as quickly as it has begun with someone asking Alexa or Siri and being told the answer in a stark manner without the enjoyment of the wild guesses that would follow…

However, with some things in life the answer isn’t so clear or easily obtained. The lift industry is subject to many differing rules and regulations, dependant on the age of the lift, the anticipated usage of the unit, whether any works have been undertaken since installation, etc. To navigate through these matters, an expert opinion is there to ensure clients are spending their funds in the most efficient manner to ensure the lift remains operational and applicable standards are adhered to.

As detailed in our Lift Safety article (Flat Living - November 2018) there are many differing designs of lift which means the approach adopted for one, may not be applicable to others, which is where expert advice is invaluable to protect Owners and Operators (as detailed in the LOLER regulations) from making incorrect or uninformed choices, which in turn can impact on the safety or reliability of their lifts.

A recent case study we are working on highlights this perfectly. We surveyed two identical lifts in March 2019 (same age, manufacturer and load capacity), however, they could not be more different in their condition or indeed the diagnosis we have given the respective property management companies who manage the blocks they serve:

Case A

The first site in South West London saw the lift installed in 2000, the unit is a 630kg (8 person) motor room less (MRL) passenger lift. The unit was operating well at the time of our inspection. The high standard of maintenance and low usage appear to have preserved the condition of the lift to such a degree, the general diagnosis of this package type lift system (designed and installed with a 15-18 year lifespan) was extended to detail a prolonged lifespan of some 3-5 years more than would be expected.

The lift shaft is painted white, well-lit and subsequently, the lift equipment remains in a clean condition. The lift is mechanically in sound condition and subject to critical components no longer supported by the manufacturer remaining operational, there is no reason why this well-maintained lift won’t exceed its lifecycle by 20% or more.

The image shows the car top, including original (no longer compliant) car top controls, which would be replaced in a planned modernisation scheme. The foreground of the image shows the door operator, which despite being of lightweight design, was still operating well during our inspection.

Our recommendation to the property manager with regards to this lift was for a planned modernisation scheme to be allowed for over the coming 3-5 year period. The budget price for these works were identified as circa £60,000 on the basis of controller replacement and rewire, renewal of door operator and landing doors, overhaul hoisting machine and address numerous health and safety (EN81-80) and disabled access (EN81-70) matters to bring code compliance up to standard.

Case B

The second site we visited this month also had a lift of the same design and installation date (2000) operating with a contract load of 630kg. The lift had been isolated at the time of our inspection following a reported issue with the guide rail fixings.

Upon our detailed inspection, the first matter we noted was the lift was touching the landing door frame (generally we would expect to see between 20-30mm clearance between the two, subject to the lift design and position within the shaft). Further examination revealed the extent of the issue, as the material selected for the construction of the lift shaft was incorrect from the outset. The original builder had selected a lightweight aerated concrete block for constructing the lift shaft, which meant the lift guide bracket fixings had managed to work their way loose over their lifespan (there was evidence of patchwork repairs apparent from this issue being nearly 20 years old).

Unfortunately for the residents involved, the lift was out of action and despite the considerable efforts of the property manager and maintenance contractor, there was little that could be done to repair the existing lift system to reinstate service (repairs would involve major building improvements, with structural implications, meaning the residents could be paying tens of thousands of pounds), when considering the age and condition of the existing lift system.

In this scenario we have advised the client to “bite the bullet” and prepare to replace the lift installation in its entirety, as despite the downtime of the lift this will cause, the potential for further harm if the lift is reinstated without major structural alterations is too great.

The lift will be replaced, along with the installation of a supporting steel structure to ensure the original blockwork of the shaft cannot undermine the lift service of the new installation. However, unfortunately the additional works involved will see the cost of the project increase by 50% or more than an equivalent modernisation scheme, but if the client was to spend the smaller sum now, they would be having to pay again in the medium term.

The image shows the lift car top and door operator, with the car skate (bottom right of photo) touching the landing door sill where the lift has lost alignment due to the guide rail issue.

Conclusion

As detailed, we have looked at two very similar lifts this month, only to find their condition has resulted in drastically differing prognoses for long-term operational performance. It is with expert advice that the correct solution to each respective lift issue can be found, particularly when looking to maximise the available budgets within a residential sinking fund.

 

Ardent Lift Consultancy is an independent business with a staff of knowledgeable, focused and experienced lift consultants, who have been involved in all aspects of the lift industry. Subsequently, we understand regulations, standards and legalities of the lift industry and advise on the practical application of these. Find out more at ardentlc.co.uk

Reviewed: July 2019