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Elevator Repairmen Are Getting Popular – and Scarce

Frank Lovece in Building Operations on February 1, 2019

New York City

Elevator Economics III

Elevator mechanics are in high demand as new safety regs loom.

Feb. 1, 2019

Elevators are complicated beasts. And with two new elevator safety regulations looming – one for door lock monitors at the end of this year, the other for emergency brakes at the end of 2026 – co-op and condo boards will have to turn an elevator consultant to help them make the right decisions and avoid costly blunders. 

“A board has to think about how old the elevators are, how well they’re running, how often they’re being maintained, and how often they are going out of service,” says Donald Skupinsky, vice president of Orsid Realty. In almost every case, he adds, that means hiring an elevator consultant. “You hire one for a couple of thousand dollars and say ‘Give me a report on the state of the elevators.’” 

The elevator consultant will detail the building’s type and brand of elevator, examine all the major components, and inform the board about what’s needed to comply with the new regs. The professional will also go over maintenance records, estimate the remaining useful life of the equipment, and advise whether piecemeal upgrades or a modernization will be more economical. 

After the board decides on a plan of action, the consultant writes bid specifications, creates a list of qualified bidders, sends out the requests for bids, evaluates the responses, and makes a presentation to management and the board. But the new regs mean elevator consultants have their hands full. 

“There’s a tremendous demand for elevator companies,” says Stirling Collins, senior vice president of Champion Elevator, a maintenance and consulting company. There may not be enough experienced workers to fill the demand – leaving some boards scrambling to find companies. Moreover, Collins adds, “I don’t think the manufacturers of the door locks and the Rope Grippers [and other brands of emergency brakes] will be able keep up. If we were to say, ‘Produce door-lock monitors for 40,000 units,’ they physically couldn’t do it” in time for the 2020 deadline. 

That’s why many are predicting that the deadlines will be extended. “Whether it be the real-estate industry or elevator companies, probably someone will have to go to the city and ask it to extend these deadlines,” says Alan Warshavsky, senior account executive at Gumley Haft Real Estate. “Based on the number of elevators in the city, I find it hard to believe that everything can be accomplished by the deadlines.” 

Such speculation, even if it proves prescient, should not become part of a board’s decision-making process. Both upgrades are on the books, and you’ll have to figure out which strategy suits your building’s pocketbook. Just know that time is not on your side, elevator consultants and mechanics are heavily booked, and decisions must be made – the sooner, the better. The question before you, says Orsid’s Skupinsky, is this: “Do we just put Band-Aids on the elevator, or do we bite the bullet and say, if we don’t have the money we can assess (or otherwise raise it) because that will save money in the long run?”

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