Lift Upgrade & Maintenance

Written on the 26 November 2018 by Samantha Repice

When should you modernise a lift versus replacing it?

There are positives and negatives of each alternative and the existing lift equipment and site conditions would need to be assessed in order to determine the most suitable and cost-effective solution. Typical areas that need to be considered are below.

  1. Has there been any prior substantial upgrade/code compliance works undertaken to the existing lift that could be retained as part of a modernisation project to reduce cost.
  2. Are there any significant benefits available from the full replacement alternative, such as an increased lift speed, larger internal car size and/or wider door openings?
  3. Do the site conditions and structural integrity of the existing lift shaft permit the replacement alternative to be considered?
  4. Does the condition of the existing lift equipment and quantity of non-compliances with the regulations make the complete replacement of the lift system a more commercially viable alternative when compared to that of a substantial modernisation?

How long will a new lift last?

The typical life expectancy of a new electronic-based lift system supplied by a reputable lift manufacturer is about 20 to 25 years, however, this is, of course, dependent upon the type of equipment installed, ongoing availability of critical spare parts, quality of maintenance provided and of course the operating environment.

What types of elevators are available?

There are three common types of elevators.

  1. Traction Elevators: Typically, traction elevators are lifted via wire ropes which pass over a sheave connected to an electric motor. The motor is located in a machine room above or adjacent to the elevator shaft. In most cases a counterweight is also used, so that the motor's load is eased. Traction elevators can be geared, or gearless, depending on their application and speed.
  2. Machine-Room-Less Elevators ('MRL'): These elevators are also traction elevators, but instead of having a dedicated machine room, the machinery necessary to operate the elevator is located within the confines of the lift shaft.  A maintenance control panel is often installed adjacent to the lift entrance at the top floor. Typically, MRL's are the primary type of lift system being provided within all new low and mid-rise residential and commercial buildings and are frequently used for full replacement projects.
  3. Hydraulic Elevators. Hydraulic elevators are hoisted from the bottom by a telescopic piston that pushes the elevator upward as an electric motor pumps hydraulic fluid into the piston. The elevator will descend as the fluid is released. These types of elevators were typically installed within low rise residential apartment buildings particularly during the 1980's. In general, there is much better equipment available today and hydraulic lift systems suffer by comparison with modern traction based lift equipment.

What determines the cost and how much money should owners corporations reserve in their capital works fund for replacement?

The cost for replacement or modernisation of a lift system is primarily determined by the extent of the scope of works required, the speed of the lift and quantity of floors the lift serves. As an example, a substantial modernisation of a typical eight stop lift, operating at 1.0 meter per second within a residential apartment building would cost approximately $240,000.00 to $270,000.00 exclusive of GST.

How long does the process to upgrade and or replace a lift take?

New equipment manufacturing and delivery lead times are about 5-6 months from placement of order.  Installation timeframe is again dependent upon the final scope works and quantity of floors the lift serves, however as a guide a substantial upgrade of an eight stop lift would be in the order of 8 10 weeks. For the full replacement alternative, there would be an additional 2 -3 weeks to demolish the existing lift and prepare to the lift shaft to accept the new equipment.

What disruption should you expect?

During the installation timeframe for a modernisation or full replacement project, the lift would be out of service and unavailable for use by the building's residents or guests. In addition, site storage space the equivalent size of approx. 2 undercover car parking spaces would be required for the duration of the site works.

In addition, for the full replacement alternative, significant disruption and noisy works may be experienced during the demolition of the existing lift equipment and preparation of the lift shaft, particularly if the landing door frames are to be replaced at each landing entrance.

What surfaces are best to prevent vandalism and scratches?

From a maintenance point of view, some stainless steel or colour-backed glass wall panels provide the best all roun durability from scratches. However, when it comes to preventing vandalism a CCTV camera within the lift car has proved to be the best deterrent in this regard. 

How can you tell if your lift is being serviced correctly?

Unfortunately, with most of the lifts main operating equipment being located within the confines of the lift shaft, the best way to determine if your asset is being maintained to a satisfactory standard and in accordance with the conditions of the maintenance agreement is to engage the services of an independent lift consultant.

How can engaging a consultant help?

Lift consultants are able to provide a wide range of audits, maintenance agreements, technical specifications, tendering and project management services.

A lift consultant is able to access all areas of your lift equipment in order to provide independent informed advice relating to the current condition of the lift system, assess the quality of maintenance being provided and to benchmark the lift system reliability against expected industry standards. This information can then be used to evaluate the service being provided by your lift maintenance company.

In addition, the remaining lifecycle of the main operating equipment can be assessed to provide viable future upgrade options, associated budgets and recommended timeframes for capital expenditure planning.

What other advice do you have for Owners corporations you believe is relevant?
The best advice that I can provide to an Owners corporation is to review and tender the ongoing lift maintenance agreement every 3 to 5 years to ensure the terms and conditions are negotiated in favour of the owners and that the cost of the agreement is reflective of current market rates.

In addition, to ensure the lift contractor is maintaining your asset in accordance with the terms and conditions of the agreement an independent inspection of the lift system should be conducted every two to three years.

For more information, please contact:

Paul Maidment

JCA Lift Consultants

Suite 205, Level 2 | 460 Pacific Highway | St Leonards, NSW   2065
PO Box 102 | St Leonards, NSW   1590
T  +61 2 94370577  |  M  +61 439942950  |

Click below to download JCA Lift Consultants Brochure


Samantha RepiceAuthor:Samantha Repice
About: Samantha Repice has over 13 years' industry experience in managing residential buildings, government sites, mixed use schemes, commercial buildings, industrial sites, Building Management Committees, Strata Management Committees and Community Associations. Calling upon her experience in facility management and industry insight across a broad range of sectors, Samantha Repice established her own company in order to provide flexible options for full-time and part time facilities management as well as cleaning services, to a portfolio of key clients.
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