University focuses on elevator safety

Students often complain about the slowness of campus elevators, but physical plant staff members say they direct their attention toward a more important factor–safety.

“The speed is not an indicator of safety,” said Kendall Jones, director of physical plant operations.

“All elevators meet the same regulations and standards. If they didn’t, we would not keep them in operation,” Jones continued.

State law requires that elevators are inspected and certified annually.

The University contracts ThyssenKrupp Elevator Corporation to conduct monthly routine maintenance visits. Vertical Assessments, an elevator consulting company, is responsible for conducting annual recertification inspections, said Matt Ellinor, ThyssenKrupp district sales manager.

“We just had an inspection on campus, and all elevators passed with flying colors,” he said.

Many students criticize the performance levels of older campus elevators based on how they compare to newer ones, Jones said. He said this comparison is unbalanced.

Elevators are required to meet the code that was in place when they were constructed, not the current code, Jones said.

“I’d rather take the stairs,” said Lowell Crawford Jr., a biology student from Miami. “I’ll be late to class waiting on the elevator.

“But sometimes if I’m tired, I’ll wait it out,” said the 18-year-old freshman.

It costs approximately $150,000 to renovate an older elevator to meet current codes and standards, said Chhagan Dalsania, a mechanical engineer and physical plant coordinator.

Jones added that he believed some students get frustrated about having to use the stairs during elevator repairs because they are unaware of the factors that influence the repair process.

Repairs can take anywhere from two or three days to six weeks, depending on the nature of the problem and other extenuating circumstances, said physical plant project manager Timmi Fadiora.

But some students said they don’t consider the repairs an inconvenience.

“I really don’t care because I’m trying to lose weight,” said Jeddler Jean-Paul, a 19-year-old freshman from Miami.

“Taking the stairs is in my best interest anyway,” said the pharmacy student.

Repairs to the elevator in Jones Hall were delayed because replacement parts are no longer available, Jones said. The elevator is more than 40 years old, so replacement parts had to be fabricated.

Breakdowns can occur when safety features are activated because of people smoking in elevators or attempting to pry the doors open, Dalsania said.

He said although physical plant receives calls about breakdowns once or twice a week, the elevators are inoperable typically for no longer than 30 minutes.

“It only takes about five minutes for us to get (people) out,” he said.

The elevator in Benjamin Banneker Complex Building B was inoperable most of the summer because the hydraulic jack that controlled its vertical movement had a slow leak and had to be replaced. The repair process was a long one because of the seriousness of the problem, Dalsania said.

“Some problems are not as simple as they appear to be on the surface, and the delays are beyond (the control of) this office,” Jones said.

He also said that his office has developed a prioritized list of elevators that need to be repaired or replaced “should the funds become available.” These elevators include those in Perry Paige, Gore Education Center and Tucker Hall.

Jones said maintenance requests are included on the University’s list of minor projects. Project funding is available through the Physical Facilities Planning Department.

Contact Andrea H. Young at