As part of our ongoing Problem Solved series, Habitat spoke with Don Gelestino, the founder of Champion Elevator.
Elevator work is always a major headache for boards and residents, but you recently ran into a very unexpected problem on what you thought was a routine job.
It was a $457,000 elevator modernization at an eight-story co-op on W. 52nd St. We were replacing two passenger elevators, which were about 40 years old, with remodeled cabs, all new electrical equipment and new motors, something we do every day. The job was supposed to take nine weeks for each elevator, but when we were three weeks in, the building’s general contractor asked if we were going to have to drill into the existing elevator hoist way door panels. When you're going to go from old equipment to newer style equipment, the door has to be penetrated so you can connect it to the new mechanism that opens it. That’s when the contractor ordered us not to proceed with any type of work until the doors could be properly tested for the possibility of asbestos material inside the metal door panels, which was something he had found on other jobs.
Had you dealt with this before?
We’d heard of it, but we’d never come across it. So we had to bring in an asbestos testing company, which drilled a small hole in each door to extract samples. They found asbestos inside, which meant all 16 doors had to be replaced. Mind you, they would have to be custom made. And with manufacturers backed up and supply chain issues, it would add 12 weeks to the overall 18-week project.
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What about the additional cost?
It was $46,000 for the doors themselves, plus another $14,000 for additional labor and overtime to remove the doors and safely handle them after normal working hours, since the board wanted to get the doors done on an expedited schedule, which we were able to shorten to six weeks. So the total contract price went up 13%, from $457,000 to $517,000. We plugged up the drill holes and were able to continue with the modernization work while waiting for the new doors. Once they were delivered, the old doors were removed, bagged and properly disposed of.
What’s the takeaway for boards?
You always have to anticipate problems. Even when you have the best elevator consultants, the best engineers and the best building manager, there are unseen things that can happen. So you want to have reserve funds on hand. You want to be sure to hire an elevator company that’s able to source equipment quickly and most affordably in case you run into a problem midstream. Finally, in any prewar building or property where the elevator hoist way doors are more than 30 years old, you should do asbestos testing if you’re doing a full modernization.
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