Kathryn Farrell in Building Operations on September 2, 2021
The New York City Council is mulling proposed revisions to the Building Code that would place responsibility for periodic elevator inspections squarely on the shoulders of building owners, including co-op and condo boards. The proposed changes, which would go into effect Jan. 1, 2022, were prompted by a recent audit by the state Comptroller’s office that revealed inadequate reporting of elevator safety violations by third-party agencies subcontracted by the Department of Buildings (DOB).
“We haven’t gotten a lot of clarity on the exact requirements,” says Joe Caracappa, president of the Sierra Consulting Group, an elevator consultancy. But if the proposed revisions are adopted, he points out, co-op and condo boards will be required to contract with an approved elevator company – which cannot be affiliated with the one handling their testing, repairs and maintenance – to carry out the inspections at the board’s expense. The new iteration of the periodic inspections will have to be completed within three months of the current annual elevator inspections. The results will then have to be filed within 14 days of the date of the inspection, and all defects must be corrected within 90 days.
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There is one small upside, however. Boards can take advantage of the new inspections to determine if upgrades must be made in order to comply with the changes in the city’s elevator brake code before the looming 2027 deadline. “If you have an elevator with a single plunger braking system,” Caracappa explains, “you will be required to either replace it with a double plunger brake; install a rope gripper, which is a device that grabs the cable to stop an elevator if there is a mechanical or electrical failure; or upgrade the elevator system completely.” Installing a double plunger brake or a rope gripper will cost about $30,000 per elevator, while a full modernization could run as high as $300,000 or more.
Why consider a full modernization at 10 times the cost? You might not have a choice, says Michael Bonardi, president of D&D Elevator. “If you have an older controller, it is not going to be equipped to accept a rope gripper, because a rope gripper is not only a mechanical piece of equipment, it's an electrical piece of equipment,” he says. “You have to be able to interface the electrical portion with the existing controller, the brain of the elevator. That becomes a challenge, so then building owners have to start saying, ‘What's feasible here? Am I spending all this money on an old elevator that really needs a modernization?’”
If some of this sounds familiar, it’s because elevator consultants have been warning boards about this deadline for a few years now. Building owners were required to install a different elevator safety mechanism, door-lock monitors, by Jan. 1, 2020. While most elevators installed after 2009 were likely to already have them, many older elevators did not, or they needed upgrades. At the time, boards were faced with a similar proposition: upgrade an old, possibly incompatible system at a cost of about $20,000 per car, or modernize the entire system. Co-op and condo boards that took the long-term view and completely modernized will likely have already taken care of any outdated brake issues.
But if the proposed revisions are added to the Building Code, boards will still have to foot the bill for the periodic inspections.
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