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Does the Revised Code Impact Elevator Modernizations?

By Michael Morgenstern

After months, even years, of anticipating that the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) would adopt an updated elevator code in Ontario, on February 1, 2022, they finally did it. The Elevating Devices Code Adoption Document Amendment 295/22 outlines how and when the ASME A17.1-2019/CSA B44-19 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators will come into effect in Ontario.

The adopted 2019 B44 Safety Code for Elevators includes several changes from the 2010 version of the code currently being used in Ontario. Many of the changes will influence the way in which elevators are installed, modernized, and maintained, and predominantly result in higher costs to building owners who typically pay the expense. Fortunately, the transition to the new code will occur throughout 2022, allowing building Owners a last opportunity to have elevators installed or modernized under the existing 2010 code.

The focus here, as it is most relevant to owners of existing buildings, is on elevator modernization.  The implication of “elevator modernization” is often associated with an aesthetic upgrade to the interior finishes of the elevator cabin. Although important, the aesthetic updating of the cabin is only a modicum of the modernization process. Improved safety, increased reliability, energy savings, and better overall performance are the main factors for proceeding with an elevator modernization. Most significantly, upgrades of the mechanical and control components form the substance of the modernization project and are also the areas that will be altered by the new code.

Deciding the right time to complete an elevator modernization is not always clear.  Upgrading an elevator requires a great deal of lead time, strategic planning, and substantial capital investment. The lifespan of an elevator system is typically between 25-30 years, but there are many factors that play a part in determining when the time to modernize is appropriate.  Material and labour cost increases to modernize an elevator have risen upwards of 25% over the past few years and the revised code will impact modernizations sold after August 1, 2022, by increasing costs further. Now might be the time to make the decision to proceed.

In principle, a ‘full service” comprehensive maintenance contract should allow for ongoing retention of an elevator system. Proper preventive maintenance and repair would protect an elevator from deterioration. However, unforeseen factors, such as obsolescence, code compliance issues, total equipment failure, and lack of preventive maintenance are all contributing factors for elevator modernization. On a case-by-case basis, there are many variables to consider, as this infers the replacement of most control and mechanical systems. In essence, everything in the machine room and hoist way must be evaluated.

With hundreds of types of elevator systems available and every building having a different amount of traffic, only with a physical inspection of the elevator system, often combined with a traffic study analysis, all completed by a qualified and experienced individual, can a modernization plan be developed. As complete elevator modernizations cost from $125,000 to $200,000(+) (per elevator depending on the type of system), a comprehensive plan is crucial to prepare for this capital expenditure.

The competitive real estate industry has an important effect on elevator modernization, as owners of older buildings endeavour to compete with newer complexes. In these circumstances, the reason for modernization is an additional key factor. Although the existing elevator system may be operational, advances in technology allow for improved dispatching which can provide as much as a 25% decrease in wait times without increasing elevator speed. Better performance and efficiency result in shorter wait times, quieter rides, and reduced repair times, leading to more satisfied passengers.

I summary, yes, the ASME A17.1-2019/CSA B44-19 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators will have an impact on future modernization projects, but the door has not yet fully closed to have such a project completed under the existing 2010 version of the code.  The option to have an elevator modernization completed under the existing 2010 version of the code, without the added costs from changes included in the revised 2019 code, requires a signed contract prior to August 1, 2022.  The project need not be finished, or even started by August 1, 2022, but the contract must be in place by that date as a copy will need to be submitted to the TSSA for review and approval for eligibility. 

Michael Morgenstern is a partner at National Elevator Consulting Limited