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Solucore Inc. - A Professional Elevator and Escalator Consulting Firm
Solucore Inc. - A Professional Elevator and Escalator Consulting Firm


Modernization Drivers and Contributors

Solucore Inc. provides vertical transportation engineering and expertise and is a strong proponent of elevator modernizations and is of the opinion that where possible and when appropriate, property managers and owners should consider upgrading their elevator equipment. There are many factors which lead to this decision and as a rule, if the elevators do not meet these criteria, then delaying the modernization is possible. Elevator and escalator consultants are suppose to have an objective approach and make decisions based on these conditions.

What is important to consider in all of this, is the concern that modernization is the all fix it solution for all of your maintenance needs. You have a door operator problem? Here's an upgrade proposal. You have a callback and reliability problem? Here's a proposal to upgrade the elevators or escalators. In an attempt to filter the noise from reality, Solucore Inc. is proposing the following scoring chart to help in your decision. As elevator and escalator consultants working for asset owner and managers, we have a unique view of the issues without bias.


There are two elements which motivate owners to modernize their elevators. These can also contribute to modernizing escalators. There are "DRIVERS" and "CONTRIBUTORS". DRIVERS are elements that in essence drive the debate and fuel the discussion to modernize. These "drivers" are legitimate concerns and should be seriously considered. While the debate has always been around the age of the equipment, there is no question that other drivers should be considered as well. If you have combinations of drivers like old equipment and obsolete equipment, then the decision in our opinion is simple and would lead to modernization. If you have a combination of contributors, then the decision is a bit cloudier. So, to separate DRIVERS from CONTRIBUTORS, we have put this table and guideline together.


The following are elements to consider when deciding to modernize the elevators or escalators:

DRIVERS   This is what to look for
Age   25 – 30 years is typically recommended for class A building
30 – 35 years is typically recommended for other buildings and hydraulic elevators
40 – 50 years is typically recommended for escalators
Obsolescence   Where parts are no longer available (For example, early generation Motorola chips. We also look for components or drives more than a “stand alone” part that can be upgraded on its own)
Equipment Limitation   Where the elevator controllers or designs are “experimental”. Also residential grade controllers in commercial buildings where there are more than two elevators in the bank. Also, safety aspects like single speed or two speed motors, escalator equipment that cannot have its safety components upgraded
Population Density / Design   Where the elevators cannot be adopted to improve and there is a constant change in population density or security concerns. Where the design cannot be adaptable to meet the change in the population
CONTRIBUTORS   This is what to look for
Expertise   Where support/knowledge is not available or readily available for the elevator or escalator components or adjustments.
Performance / Reliability   Where the equipment is operating below industry standards or parameters and there is no way to improve it because of the equipment's own limitations. We are looking for high callbacks, poor speeds, rough operation, etc...
Power Savings   If the building is looking to improve the energy profile of the building and the current equipment is not suitable. Changing regenerative drives to a non-regenerative drive is not a good example.
Act of God / Damage   Where the elevators cannot be adopted to improve and there is a constant change in population density or security concerns. Where the design cannot be adaptable to meet the change in the population.
Proprietary Controls   This is where the elevators shutdown due to a special proprietary maintenance timer or program. This would contribute to the poor operation and reliability of the elevator. The longer the elevator is in operation, the less impact the proprietary point will have on the score.



Elevator and escalator consultants look at the age of the elevating device and put a score in this category. Elevators older than 30 years old, score 30 as well. For escalators, the highest number is 50. There is no higher number than 30 for elevators and 50 for escalators in this category. The closer you are to topped out number, the closer your devices are reaching the end of their useful life cycle.


Obsolescence is a major issue and a driving force behind the decision to modernize. This is based on the need to replace parts that are no longer available or provided by elevator companies or third party suppliers. Where it is not feasible to buy parts because they are not available, then modernization makes sense because the cost to repair the elevators becomes eventually more expensive than modernization. The older Texas Instrument and Motorola Chips are no longer being manufactured and the original parts are no longer available. Therefore, where this becomes a problem for the elevator companies is when a component fails and a replacement chip cannot be purchased. Manufacturing another Motorola chip is also not a workable feat for one elevator and one client. Unless someone is producing these chips on a large scale, it is not logical to assume that these parts will continue to be repairable. Also, some companies are hogging their inventories on older boards because they have a great concern (and a valid one we would add) that they cannot continue to maintain their own equipment if they continue to sell the boards or components.


Obsolescence is a buzz word now for everything. Machines, gears, bearing and relays. The truth is, these parts are not really obsolete in the broad sense of the word. While technically speaking, the description fits the bill: to grow old, become disused, but the truth is some of the old elevator parts are still being manufactured or stored and there are manufacturers that would continue to produce these parts or supply older parts. Your vertical transportation consultant should be able to differentiate between fact and fiction.


Obsolescence score 1 point for each year the elevator is in use. For example, 20 year old equipment with obsolete parts would score 20 points.


Some elevator controllers or machinery are poorly designed, but deployed nevertheless. These components become problematic to maintain and retain. Hence modernizing them is in the best interest of the building manager and owner. For example, some low rise controllers are modified to work in a high rise application and hence they get a reputation for "experimental" design. Elevator control design is not the only determination for equipment limitation, motors or machines, designs like the machine-room-less also come to mind and hydraulic designs on elevators and chain design or drive design on escalators.


Where equipment limitation is a factor, we add 1.5 points for each year the elevator is in service. For example, elevators or escalators that are 10 years old, we give them a score of 15.

Elevator Control for gearless applications   Elevator Control in a geared application
CLASS A BUILDING –HIGH RISE, 5 CARS. 700 foot per minute gearless elevators.   RESIDENTIAL BUILDING – 2 ELEVATORS. 150 foot per minute geared elevator.
700 foot per minute gearless elevators   150 foot per minute geared elevator


Some buildings are not well designed or significantly change their population density model after they are built. Therefore, the existing elevators would not be capable of handling the traffic in these buildings. Some elevator designs are also marginal and cannot handle a significant population density change. Therefore, in some instances, if the building traffic study necessitates a change in dispatching and this capability is not available in the existing equipment, modernization is recommended and is required.


Where population densities change, and the situation is bad, the decision to modernize versus rework the existing design would be based on the age of the equipment and a rule of thumb is 2 points for every year. Equipment that's 20 years will score 40 points.



Another factor to consider with respect to the maintenance of the equipment is the availability of personnel capable of maintaining the elevators and escalators. Service personnel capable of performing many of the adjustments necessary to keep elevator equipment operating properly are hard to come by. Therefore, where equipment is complicated to adjust like a selector or uncommon to the industry (like a foreign model), then the expertise factor does come into play and should be considered in addition to the parts availability.


Where expertise is a factor in maintaining the elevator or escalator equipment, a half a point score is given to this element based on the age of the equipment. While it can be argued that some of the new equipment installed lack the training and expertise, we would not endorse modernizing these controllers or equipment as a result of that. Hence, if the equipment is 20 years old, it scores 10 points.


Performance and reliability are major factors leading to modernization. After all, no one needs an elevator that traps passengers or is always shutdown. Therefore, callbacks are measured and should be noted as part of the analysis for the building. Remember, elevators should not and cannot be modernized (in our opinion) on callbacks alone. You can have a new elevator with numerous callbacks and issues and it may take time to clear them depending on expertise and company capability. What elevator and escalator consultants are trying to do is retain most of the salvageable value.



Newer Equipment Building type
Equipment Type Class A Class B Class C Residential
Gearless AC 0.20 0.25 0.30 0.30
Gearless DC 0.25 0.30 0.35 0.35
Machine-room-less 0.25 0.25 0.30 0.33
Geared 0.30 0.33 0.33 0.35
Hydraulic 0.25 0.33 0.35 0.30
Equipment Type Commercial Retail
(one store)
Mall Transit
Escalators 0.15 0.10 0.22 0.25

For older equipment callback ratio for all types should not exceed one callback every two months per elevator (ratio = 0.5) and for escalators, one callback every three months (ratio = 0.33).


With the above table as a guideline for callbacks, if the elevators and escalators are not meeting these criteria, then no points should be given for elevators less than 10 years old and half a point for each year thereafter. Hence, an elevator that's 20 years old not meeting these performance parameters, would score 5 points. The rationale for this is simply this: the elevator contractors can reduce the callbacks that are related to the other issues like doors, fixtures, motor, etc... It is rare for the elevator to experience calls related to only the obsolete or poor parts.


If there is a need to upgrade the elevators, the current system power usage and profile could be improved using new dispatching and drive technology. However, is some cases, upgrading a geared regenerative elevator system to the new SCR drive system will actually have a worse impact on the power profile. Therefore, when considering the power aspects alone, the upgrade may not be a good enough incentive unless your energy profile is going to improve.


Therefore, with respect to the power saving aspect, we provide zero points for the first 10 years and 5 points is provided in the remaining years. Where a technology leap is provided and is confirmed (i.e. going from hydraulic to machine-room-less elevator or from a non-regenerative to a regenerative system).


Where there is an issue with the equipment's performance due to an act of god, or if the elevator equipment is damaged, then this should be considered in the evaluation process. As mentioned, the damage must not be localized as in rusting pit equipment of guide rails or other fixtures that would not impact callbacks or performance. This would be something directly related to the equipment's ability to perform and for some reason (either neglect or prolonged exposure), it was not or could not be covered under insurance. Another example of this would be the cylinder is knocking due to earthquake or other underground condition. Then an upgrade may be recommended and the score is zero points in the first 20 years and 5 points in the next 20 to 30 years and 10 points in years 30 to 40. If an elevator 22 years is impacted by this scenario, then the equipment has an act of god score of 5.


There are some elevators controllers which are very difficult to maintain due to proprietary design. Components could have been added to the base design or an experimental system is integrated to the base design which makes the elevator proprietary and difficult to deal with. For example, there are special tools needed to reset the levelling encoder count or adjust the drive or reset the shutdown timer.


In situations like these, the elevators are typically harder to maintain in the first 20 years then it is in the remaining years because it is assumed that the more of the proprietary elevators are installed, the more likely that mechanics become familiar with it or that can maintain it. Also, with the number of installations, some of the elevator contractors may attempt to reverse engineer the design and provide new tools or alternative methods to maintain it.


If controllers are proprietary, then the following count is suggested: zero points for the first 10 years as it would be practically unthinkable to upgrade an elevator 10 years young; 20 points for years 11 to 20; 15 points for years 21 to 30; and 10 points for years above that.


If you would like to see how well your elevator equipment scores, please use our "Modernization Questionnaire" and get your modernization number.

Published in Published in Canadian Property Management Magazine June 2009

by Ray Eleid, P.Eng. - Back to list

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