The purpose of an elevator modernization is to allow the building to compete with other new buildings and existing buildings that have already been modernized. Once a wave of modernizations or extensive new building starts in the core of the city it is difficult for any building owner to resist the trend to modernize. If he does not follow the trend, his building is left with a second-rate image.
For a period of some 25 years from 1955 to 1980 elevator technology remained relatively unchanged without any significant innovation. During that period there was little reason for modernization since the new equipment was very much like the older equipment. However, over the last fifteen years there have been major changes in the controls of traction elevators. The changes are due to the implementation of solid state power units (SCR, IGBT and VVVF drives), closed loop feedback speed controls and microprocessor logic. All these changes are aimed at improving reliability and performance as well as reducing ongoing adjustment requirements. In addition to this there has been increasing emphasis on ride quality and noise levels. As a result of these developments there is a perceptible difference between an elevator installed today as compared to one installed 20 years ago. The differences are obvious enough that the building tenant becomes aware that the space being rented is no longer first class space. This has a direct impact on rental and vacancy rates.
Sometimes it is suggested that the existing equipment be modernized since it is "getting old" and therefore impossible to maintain. This thinking has no basis in reality. Elevator equipment for office buildings has been designed to run indefinitely. With proper maintenance - which most building owners have been paying for - there is no reason why it should deteriorate. It is true that new elevators require less maintenance than earlier designs but this just means that it is easier and more profitable for elevator companies to maintain newer equipment rather than older equipment.
The problem of maintaining older equipment is compounded by the practices in the elevator industry. New equipment development and installation tends to be the training ground for new mechanics and adjustors. Adjustment of the older relay systems is generally left to the older adjustors. Due to the seniority provisions of many elevator union agreements the average age in a union local is often over fifty years. Companies often cannot find enough adjustors to meet their maintenance obligations on older equipment.
The upshot is that in the near future there are not always enough personnel capable of keeping the older systems running reliably at their full potential.
All of these factors tend to force building owners to examine the question of modernization. It becomes not a matter of whether to modernize but when to modernize bearing in mind the length of time the modernization program will take. For example, it would take almost two years to completely modernize a group of four elevators from the time the "go" decision is made.