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Costly Elevator Safety Regs Are Coming

Frank Lovece in Building Operations on February 5, 2018

New York City

Elevator Regs 1
Feb. 5, 2018

On the last day of her life, Suzanne Hart was entering a lobby elevator in a Madison Avenue office building when it suddenly shot up, wedging her body between the elevator and the wall, killing her. As a result of Hart’s death and later fatal accidents, New York City has passed two new elevator-safety regulations. They mandate that all building owners and co-op and condo boards make certain upgrades to certain types of elevators – which could cost $30,000 and up for more complicated jobs. 

“Nothing with elevators is cheap,” says Edward Voll, president of Vertical Systems Analysis, an elevator consulting company. “I have yet to see any proposal for less than $10,000.” 

There are two sets of new regulations on the way. By January 1, 2020, door-lock monitors will have to be installed on certain elevators; by January 1, 2027, emergency brakes will have to be installed on other types of elevators. When setting out to comply with these regs, boards will need to know enough about their elevators to make a key choice: repair or replace? 

Beware: putting off an elevator replacement can be costly. “If you have an elevator more than 20, 25 years old, you should consider replacing it and not just doing compliance work,” says Joe Caracappa, vice president and a partner at Sierra Consulting Group, an elevator consulting company. “Because if you do the compliance and then a couple of years down the road decide to upgrade, those expenses for the compliance are not recaptured.” 

Georgia Lombardo-Barton, president of Barton Management, agrees. She manages two properties that had balky elevators. Both boards were spending a great deal of money replacing parts and doing repairs every year. Lombardo-Barton brought in an elevator consultant to meet with the two boards. After that, one decided it was time to replace; the other decided to wait and see. She kept warning the latter board to act, to no avail. “If we wait,” she told the board, “all the elevator companies will most likely charge you more than what they would be charging you today.” 

The first thing boards need to determine – in conjunction with an architect/engineer or an elevator consultant – is what type of elevator the building has and what must be done to bring it up to code. Boards need to cost out the compliance, and then, taking into account the age and condition of the elevator, decide whether to refurbish or replace. And they need to do this sooner rather than later. As Lombardo-Barton notes, with the first compliance deadline looming in 2020, the demand (and cost) for mechanics and inspectors will inevitably go up.

“One of my clients has 600 [elevator] cars in different buildings,” says Voll. “They’re engaging us now. If that client waited until 2019, they’re not going to get it done.” 

Compliance is mandatory, and resistance is futile. This is not the time for boards to procrastinate or bury their heads in the sand.

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