Elevator Modernization, There’s Levels to This

Elevators are complex and require specialized expertise to operate and maintain; in fact, most facilities have to work through a third-party service provider to address elevator modernization and equipment issues. Everything, including the doors, shaft, control panel, and car, not only works within the elevator system, but in tandem with the fire, security, electrical, and mechanical systems of the building. At Henderson Building Solutions, we’ve developed a turnkey process to assess, plan, deliver, and sustain the built environment. This proven process combined with our staff’s expertise has allowed us to help our clients improve this critical function in their facilities across the country.


Elevator modernization consists of updating the supporting machinery and controls to provide safe and efficient transportation throughout the facility. It’s often confused with an elevator replacement, which entails installing a new car and has a much greater cost implication. In contrast, modernization focuses on the operation more than the aesthetics of the elevator. While some may choose to upgrade the car’s paneling or lighting during this process, it’s not necessary nor is it the overall objective. Rather, the focus is on the ropes, wheels (machinery), and controls of the elevator. Special consideration is also given to fire, life safety, and building codes throughout the process, as these codes are frequently updated and not always clearly understood.

Modernizations also come in varying levels, from a micro-mod to a full-blown modernization, depending on what your facility needs and budget you have to work with. Which is why having a partner you can trust to be thorough and transparent throughout this process can be vital to the success of an elevator project. As Rio Grande Regional Hospital’s Plant Operations Manager, Lupe Caballero, noted, “We’ve got the hospital to run and everything else…So, we need someone that can come in here and run with it and Henderson does that for us and we appreciate it. Henderson builds a trust factor…we don’t have to check in because we know you guys are taking care of it.”

We build that kind of trust with clients like Lupe through our unique turnkey process that includes these four steps:

  • Facility Condition Assessment
    We review all components of the elevator, as well as the building systems associated with its operation. Our experts work with the facility staff to understand budget, schedule, and even manpower constraints that will affect the construction process and business operation. Once we understand the elevator’s condition and project parameters, we create a modernization plan that will achieve the facility’s goals for successful operation.
  • Design Solutions & Engage a Contractor
    There are multiple levels of modernization. Whether the situation warrants a micro-, mini-, or full-modernization is entirely dependent upon the condition of system and the priorities of the owner. With these priorities top of mind, the modernization plan is developed with above average detail to help mitigate unexpected costs or delays. One of the most common frustrations we encounter has to do with proprietary equipment and the challenges it can present throughout the life of the elevator. Many proprietary systems require specialized service contracts and can be difficult to integrate with other manufacturers. As a third-party construction manager, we are an unbiased partner. In fact, we request proposals from a trusted, pre-approved group of elevator vendors and contractors to further minimize these concerns in the procurement process. Then, we work with the owner to help them select the best contractor — we even handle all the paperwork.
  • Complete the Work
    Modernization is complex. Throughout construction Henderson Building works with the contractor to make sure the project goals are being achieved, and all expectations are being met. At the end of construction, we assess the elevator and provide as-built documentation, so the owner and facility staff are completely informed about the project and their equipment.
  • Ongoing Expertise & Maintenance
    At project closeout, we give our clients a checklist, so they can complete regular maintenance with confidence. However, some of our clients prefer to have us oversee their regular service. In that case, our elevator specialists will come to the site and perform a maintenance verification following scheduled maintenance.


There are a number of reasons to perform elevator modernization. The most common is the age of infrastructure, as was the case for Rio Grande Regional Hospital in McAllen, Texas. Not only are many facilities operating with extremely old equipment, but those that aren’t have components that aren’t operating efficiently due to technological advancement or simply the lack of proper maintenance. In addition, elevator doors are the number one cause of elevator failure. The constant movement of the elevator car causes a significant amount of wear on the doors and operating with extremely worn or outdated equipment can not only lead to increased service calls and downtime, but it can also affect the safety of riders.

Pressurization is another issue that can impact elevator operation and even code compliance. Elevator shafts naturally contribute to stack effect as open space for air to travel through. The elevator car then acts as a giant piston, forcing air in and out of the shaft as it moves up and down throughout the floors. Many components, such as exhaust air systems and doors, help to mitigate these issues, but areas with extreme temperature variances often require a more hands-on approach. Pressurization can also contribute to the car’s ability to level-off at arrival. Code requires a variance no greater than 1/4 inch for the safety of passengers entering and exiting the car. During extreme weather or due to consistent pressurization issues, cars can start to miss the mark for safe boarding.

Our team is helping clients across the country implement elevator modernization because we bring a new level of expertise to the field. We not only understand elevators and conveyance systems, but we also know the building systems that interact with them and affect the rest of the facility; which means we offer holistic solutions that solve problems rather than create new ones. It’s what we do every day.

When we implement an elevator modernization project, we’re also thinking about the future. That’s why we work with facility staff to create a checklist to efficiently handle routine maintenance and ultimately help reduce monthly service costs. If you need help understanding the current status of your elevator or have question regarding a modernization at your facility, contact us here. Our building-life-focused, turnkey process can help reduce your headaches in managing your elevator and give you peace of mind about this critical system in your facility.


Written By

Electrical & Elevator Technical Leader


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