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Going Modular: The Distinct Advantages of Modular Elevators for Parking Structures

By Tom Shield

Adding conventional elevators to a new or existing parking facility can

cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and take many months. But there is a new archi- tectural solution, which effectively deals with these issues, saving your facility’s time and money – the modular elevator. A modular elevator is constructed of

nonproprietary, high-quality components and manufactured in a plant-controlled environment, which results in a high-qual- ity product that greatly minimizes design and engineering costs. Priced below con- ventional elevator systems, modular ele- vators typically take one day to install and require little maintenance. Like conventional elevators, modulars

can be customized to fit the look of the existing structure. Since security is an important concern for parking facilities, modular elevators can be designed with glass-backed elevators to provide passive security and other vandal resistant materi- als can be specified.

The Modular Advantage With modular elevators, the prefabricated hoist way is man-

ufactured off-site in a remote location. This allows the modular elevator to be manufactured in the plant simultaneously as the construction of a parking structure. Unlike conventional elevators, modular elevators don’t

need to be an inherent part of the parking structure they are serv- icing. Instead, they are easily attached to the existing structure, often on the exterior of the building without having to share the same foundation. For an existing parking structure that is adding floors and

needs a vertical transportation system, a modular elevator is an ideal solution. When adding a modular elevator to an existing parking facility, the facility’s life is extended without losing square footage – all while ensuring accessibility for everyone. Amodular elevator can be placed on-site before the parking

facility is fully built - as long as power is available. Regulators typically require a temporary construction lift or elevator be installed at a job site that is taller than three stories.Apermanent modular elevator can be used to meet these requirements while eliminating the need to rent and expense a temporary lift. Modular construction offers shorter build times; typically 50

to 60 percent less than a traditional on-site construction project.A modular elevator can be up and running before a conventional hoist way is built. This provides an earlier return on investment and lower professional fees.

Modular Elevator Types The two most common vertical transportation solutions used

in parking facilities are hydraulic and machine room-less (MRL) 16

elevators, both of which are full-size commercial elevators available from modular elevator manufacturers. Check with the manufacturer to make sure the elevator meets the require- ments set by the local jurisdiction. Hydraulic elevators are fre-

quently used in parking structures with two-to-five stories and are avail- able with holeless-twin or in-ground jacks. Holeless hydraulic elevators utilize above-ground cylinders and are used in sustainable or cost-sensi- tive projects with two floors to elimi- nate the unknowns related to drilling for in-ground jacks. For parking structures taller

than five stories, a MRLelevator is an ideal solution. A MRL elevator fea- tures a permanent magnet motor that allows elevator manufacturers to place the machine directly in the ele- vator shaft, eliminating the need for

a machine room. Despite the elimination of a machine room, MRL elevators still need a dedicated, but minimal, space for the controller. Installation is simplified and ongoing maintenance costs are reduced.

Installing a Modular Elevator It is important for the contractor to work closely with the

modular elevator manufacturer when planning and installing a modular elevator for a successful installation. Logistics and tim- ing play an important role in maximizing the financial opportu- nities that modular elevators afford. The first step in the installation process is pouring the con-

crete elevator pit, utilizing an anchor bolt template from the manufacturer to ensure precise positioning. Once the elevator is set in place, it is attached to the anchor bolts and verified to be plumb. Next, the fully-assembled modular equipment room is set into place. This installation process is usually completed in just a few hours. After the elevator is set, electrical, fire and phone services are

provided and final adjustments are completed. Upon inspection and approval by the appropriate jurisdictions, the elevator is ready for use in a matter of days. Modular elevators offer many benefits over conventional ele-

vators for up to 15 stories in new and retrofit construction park- ing projects. Ready-to-use modular elevators can be customized to meet the needs of any project and the end results are indistin- guishable from conventional construction.

Tom Shield is the President and Founder of Modular Elevator Manufacturing, Inc. (MEM). For more information, visit

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