Achieving the ‘impossible’…

Ardent Lift Consultancy were assigned to a project in 2016 in North London which had got off to an inauspicious start. We were appointed hot on the heels of the previous lift consultancy being removed from the contract by the Board of Directors for the property, following several months of debate and discord.

In essence, the lift consultancy involved had told the Directors of the residential block that their lifts could not be fitted with automatic doors as the lift shaft dimensions were too tight; however, the Directors had been assured on good authority that they could be installed and wanted to pursue that route.

Having experience of the industry for a long time, we always enter into scenarios such as this with an open mind and a pragmatic approach. If the previous consultants were correct, we would have no qualms in conveying that to the client (even if it wasn’t what they wanted to hear). Conversely, we would look at the restrictive shaft dimensions and offer our advice if there was a possibility to install automatic entrances (no matter how tight they may be).

We attended that initial inspection with our eyes wide open to the potential pitfalls a project of this nature would bring. The four lifts had been installed into stairwells of a mansion block in the early 1960’s with very restrictive shaft dimensions, trapezoid (rather than square) lift shafts, Thermalite blockwork walls and asbestos in plentiful supply. The lifts retained all of the original control, machine and door equipment from their installation and had little to no investment over their 50 odd year life span. In short the project was a bit of a disaster zone and probably easier to walk away from.

However, the client and the residents of the blocks had gone through a lot at this stage and we wanted to do our part to help assist them in bringing back a safe, reliable and comfortable level of lift service to the property. We agreed that the entrances could be replaced with automatic door equipment (though it would be a struggle), and we offered budget costs and recommendations for all other works.

The project commenced with the refurbishment of a single lift to begin with, which offered a great opportunity to learn about the building as the works commenced. Extensive measured surveying was undertaken by the winning tendering company (Griffin Elevators) and we agreed a scheme to not only replace the door equipment with automatic alternatives, but to also increase the restrictive lift car interior by approximately 50% (allowing for 4 person lift cars to be installed – a marked improvement).

The first phase of the works was completed on budget, but the programme slipped due to the Thermalite lift shaft requiring extensive alterations to shore up what was effectively free standing blockwork. The lift was returned to service a couple of weeks behind schedule, but upon its return, it proved to be reliable from the offset, despite the levels of intricate site engineering required to install the automatic doors into the trapezoid shaft (as the shaft width reduces the further in you travel).

The client was so pleased with the first refurbishment, we were appointed to specify and tender the following three lifts. We tendered the project and the contractor who undertook the first phase won the second phase comfortably, with a tender price that was very close to our original budget costs.

As part of the second phase of works, we engaged with an asbestos consultancy to specify the removal of the excessive asbestos we found during our survey of the lift shafts (the whole front of the lift shafts were clad in asbestos, so to replace the doors would mean disturbing this hazardous material, leaving no choice but to remove). The works to the lift/lift shaft asbestos were coordinated by Ardent, ensuring the lifts were made safe by the lift contractor to hand over to the asbestos removal team, who would remove all hazardous materials, clear any contaminated areas and then provide clean air certification before the lift contractor could return to complete their duties.
The three remaining lifts were refurbished over 2017 and we have recently signed off the project from a snagging and defects perspective, enabling the client to enjoy a property without major works required on their lifts for many years to come.

The client had the following to say on the project:

‘We are grateful to Gareth Lomax of Ardent Consultancy for his hard work and tremendous patience whilst advising us during the refurbishment of our four lifts. This was an extremely challenging project, but Ardent’s professionalism and expertise helped make it as smooth as possible. The end product was to the highest specification, overcoming the obstacles of working within a very confined lift-shaft to deliver the best results with automatic doors. Ardent Consultancy delivered precisely what was required, they never let us down, and we would strongly recommend them.’

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