An elevator is essentially a metal box, or car, that moves goods or passengers between floors of a building or the decks of a ship. The elevator’s operation is based on a system of hydraulics, counterweights for balancing the car, an electric motor that lifts the car up and down, a network of pulleys and cables, a hydraulic braking system and various safety systems in case of a malfunction.
Incorporating an elevator into an existing building or designing a stick built elevators for new construction takes many months and costs several thousands of dollars. To start, a hoistway must be built as part of the structure, either from concrete block, steel, or wood. The components are then brought to the site and put together in the hoistway. There is an alternative called modular elevators and similar to modular homes they are built offsite and shipped to where they will be used.
The hydraulic modular elevator consists of a welded, tubular steel hoistway containing the elevator car, controls, rails, and drive system. It is relatively lightweight (compared to a conventional elevator structure) and as a result, smaller concrete pits can be used. Modular elevators are manufactured in a controlled environment under strict quality controls. Once installed, freestanding modular elevators operate identical to a conventional elevator and is serviced the same as one.
Conventional elevators take a long time to build in large part due to the hoistway that must be constructed. With conventional elevators, these require greater structural support in the form of beams or caissons. In addition, this involves shop drawings and blueprints, design and engineering of the elevator, submission to local government, and review periods. Modular elevators also greatly reduce not only labor and onsite construction costs but the headaches that often accompany them.
A modular elevator can be onsite, ready to install, within 8 weeks after plans and drawings are approved, compared to five or six months for a conventional elevator. Once onsite the installation takes three to four days causing minimal disruption on site. Modular elevators are self-supporting making them an excellent option for retrofit projects. They are less costly compared to conventional elevators considering the hoistway is included.