Reliable, properly maintained elevators are critical to the safety and performance of any high-rise building. The best way to safeguard that reliability and ensure that elevator equipment receives the maintenance attention it needs is to perform an elevator condition audit (also known as a maintenance evaluation).

An elevator audit is a visual examination of the cleanliness, condition, and operation of elevator, escalator, and other vertical transportation equipment. The purpose of this examination is to uncover deficiencies in condition and necessary repairs, determine the level of maintenance being performed, measure elevator performance (such as door open and close times, and floor-to-floor times), and review compliance with applicable codes. The examination takes place in the machine room, secondary machine spaces, hoistway, and pit, as well as on top of the elevator, in the elevator cab, and on the elevator landings.

Diminish Deferred Maintenance
By ensuring that maintenance companies meet their contractual obligations, a maintenance audit will reduce the amount of deferred maintenance and repairs. Deferred maintenance reduces the life of the equipment, resulting in the need for a modernization before its typical useful life expectancy has expired. Deferred maintenance can lead to reduced elevator performance and reliability, leading to more shutdowns, callbacks, and tenant complaints. Deferred maintenance can also have a direct financial impact if the building is being offered for sale; prospective buyers may note the amount of deferred maintenance while performing due diligence surveys, reducing bids and weakening the current owner’s negotiating position.

Rather than waiting until you’re dissatisfied with your maintenance company or until elevator reliability becomes a concern, elevator audits should be performed regularly. This will reduce the chance of small problems becoming big problems, and prevent the list of deferred maintenance tasks from becoming unmanageable. Contractors are also more likely to monitor the condition of the equipment themselves and perform appropriate preventive maintenance when they know that their performance is being periodically reviewed.

Stay on Schedule
A two-visit process each year is typically recommended, especially for high-rise buildings. The first visit consists of a full evaluation to find deficiencies in maintenance, code, and performance. The second visit is a re-evaluation, performed after the maintenance contractor claims the work is completed in order to verify compliance. If two visits per year aren’t feasible from a budget standpoint, an annual visit should be considered instead. With annual visits, the audit should include a review of whether the deficiencies from the previous year’s audit have been addressed.

Maintenance audits should be performed by an independent consulting firm with personnel who have extensive field experience with vertical transportation equipment. Firms with QEI-certified elevator inspectors are sometimes preferable, since a review of code compliance issues should be part of a complete evaluation.

What to Expect
What can you anticipate when a maintenance audit is going to be performed on your elevators or escalators? In general, the survey should take between an hour and an hour and a half per elevator for a complete evaluation, depending on the type of equipment and height of the building. The elevator can remain in service during most of the evaluation, but will need to be taken out of service for 15 to 30 minutes while the interior hoistway equipment is being examined from the top of the elevator car.

If your building has escalators, your maintenance contractor will need to open up the escalator and remove steps in order to accommodate a complete interior examination. You will typically be charged for this as extra-service billing unless it’s specifically covered under your contract.

After the field work is completed, you can expect a complete report within a few weeks. The report should identify deficiencies in code, performance, and maintenance, as well as a separate list of items that need to be corrected by building personnel. The report should also include short-term and long-term recommendations with associated budgets for elevator work to assist in capital planning.

Deficiency lists should be forwarded to your elevator or escalator maintenance contractor for review and correction; the contractor should provide a schedule for when the work will be completed. After the audit, follow-up is critical to ensure that the contractor is addressing the noted deficiencies. This will make sure you receive the most from your maintenance audit and maximize long-term elevator reliability and performance.


Getting Up to Speed

Bank of New York Mellon was experiencing growing maintenance and operation costs for its aging elevators in Pittsburgh. The elevator equipment at the 41-story Three Mellon Center building (also known as 525 William Penn Place) was installed in 1951 and still uses the original relay logic controllers and power-hungry motor generators. Increasing shut-downs were eroding confidence in the vertical transportation equipment and decreasing property value. And each of the three Mellon Center buildings had its own elevator maintenance service provider.

Maintenance evaluations revealed that 22 of the 30 elevators were in urgent need of modernization. The $4.5 million, three-year project included new microprocessor controllers, solid-state elevator drives, wiring, door equipment and fixtures. BNY Mellon Center now has the most efficient and reliable elevator technology available, delivering dramatic cost savings on electricity while improving reliability and reducing the need for maintenance. Additionally, elevator maintenance specifications for all three buildings were rewritten and maintenance service was consolidated to a single provider, creating service consistency and leveraging volume to obtain competitive pricing.

Daniel DeBlasio, PE

Daniel DeBlasio, PE, is a senior engineer for BOCA Group International, based in New York City.