As part of our ongoing Problem Solved series, Habitat spoke with Don Gelestino, president of Champion Elevator.
One of our recent jobs is a really beautiful high-end building down in Tribeca. It's a $1.4 million job — a four-car, four-passenger elevator group modernization. They were all overhead traction elevators, 2,500-pound capacity each, which is pretty normal, especially in a building that size. It was four 34-story elevators all in line, pretty much what you would call a plain-vanilla job.
Surprise, surprise. We were on the job for about four weeks when our mechanic noticed that one car had some excessive lateral movement in certain areas of the hoist way, which is very uncommon. So he did a little bit of investigation and noticed that there were brackets that hold the rails that were moving. The normal thing would be to laser-align the brackets, put some shims in and tighten them up. Well, funny part of it is, there was no way to tighten these brackets.
After further investigation, we found out that next to those four elevators, years and years ago, there were two more elevators in a different shaftway. And someone put bolts and brackets through the terra cotta walls that would hold these brackets to the elevators we were working on. When they removed the elevators from the other shaftway, they cut out those intermediate brackets. So the only way for us to do any repairs to this was to actually chop out the terra cotta wall itself, put in tube steel all the way around the hoistway, attach that to structural steel, weld it in, and then adapt the rail brackets and attach them to this new structure that we had to create.
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These are these things that you really cannot be prepared for. Thank God it was a Class-A building, very high-end luxury apartments, and the co-op board had the funds to address this problem. The supports cost $491,500, which is tremendous. We had a fixed-price job of $1.4 million — so the change order was one-third of the total contract price. It also added 24 weeks to the 56-week schedule.
Prepare for the unforeseeable. There's never a good time to modernize an elevator. When you mix in something like this, it's like getting hit twice. Imagine if the building didn’t have the funds and had to refinance the mortgage. It could have been a huge problem. So we are glad that we all got through this together and we did it the best we could the fastest we could do it. But imagine if the building had to do a refi or didn't have the funds. It could be a huge problem.
About 15% of elevator jobs have complications that lead to cost overruns. I really think boards should keep something on hand for those rainy-day type of issues that can happen, because they do. You don't want to have to scramble at the last minute and try to figure out how to pay for these overruns. When you’re interviewing consultants or elevator companies, ask them if they've noticed anything when they looked at the job. And remember that even the best of the best are going to find things that nobody could foresee.
Co-op and condo board business broken down into bite-sized bits - 2 stories each week. Read now on all digital devices.