The Communications, Culture, & Technology (CCT) elevators continue to be in maintenance in the midst of a slew of campus renovations.
Ahmed Azhari, Director of Facilities Management & Planning (FM&P), said that the delay in maintenance of the CCT elevators is due to the GRT controllers, the system used to control the elevators, the button control panel, and the long wait time for unit parts.
“The CCT cars are very problematic because we are working with vintage controllers and the lead time on spare parts is lengthy,” said Azhari. “As a result, when there is a part failure, we have to wait an extended period of time to successfully resource the part and make it available for the repair.”
One CCT car has been retrofitted with a new button control panel after reports of vandalism. According to Azhari, when students, faculty, and staff ride the CCT cars and repeatedly push the buttons, the button control panel receives damage, increasing the probability of an elevator breakdown.
UTM currently has a contract with the OTIS Elevator Company, who attends to the maintenance and performance of the campus elevators.
Regarding reports of elevator breakdowns and entrapments, only a certified elevator mechanic from OTIS is able to free people who are trapped. In cases of medical emergency, the fire department is permitted to assist the situation first for health and safety concerns.
The industry standard of a certified elevator mechanic attending an entrapment is between 45 to 60 minutes.
“However,” said Azhari, “[the time of a certified elevator mechanic’s arrival] is very dependent on where the mechanic is coming from and the time of day. It depends on traffic, and traffic is dependent on the weather too.”
The Medium spoke to ICCIT professor Brett Caraway about his experience being trapped in the CCT elevators on two different occasions.
On September 22, 2014, Caraway was trapped inside CCT elevator two with two other students. After an hour and a half, Caraway and the students were freed by an elevator technician.
“It just came to a stop,” Caraway said, “The elevator technician was able to pry the doors open and we were able to exit onto floor number two by kind of hoping down.”
On July 19, 2015, Caraway was trapped once more, this time inside CCT elevator one. Caraway was alone on this occasion and was freed two and a half hours later.
“When that elevator failed it actually dropped me down some distance,” said Caraway. “I’m not sure how far I fell. I wasn’t expecting it when it happened. It dropped some distance—enough to really frighten me. I guess something caught, either the breaks or the cables.”
“When it came to a stop the alarm started going off inside the elevator. There was no way to turn the alarm off. It was a very loud alarm,” continued Caraway. “[It was] kind of a torturous event. Two and a half hours in a small confined space with that siren going off at a very loud volume.”
In a 2016 interview with The Medium, Paul Goldsmith, then Director of FM&P, explained that the mechanical issues the CCT elevators sustain are due to the circuit board and the controllers.
Goldsmith stated that if the same pieces of equipment needed to be repaired, the whole unit will be assessed for a complete replacement.
Due to budget restraints and the complexity of undertaking a complete retrofitting of the CCT elevators’ controllers, FM&P will not go forward with the initial unit replacement plan.
Instead, FM&P is undergoing several projects to help expediate the wait time for the CCT elevators that are within budget.
“To do a full modernization at the moment is not a viable option because it is very costly, but we are doing our best to minimize the downtime,” said Azhari. “We invested a lot of money—that button panel was an expensive upgrade—and we are planning to invest more with the budget and resources we have.”
Some of the projects currently underway include working with OTIS to recognize which unit parts will soon need to be re placed and pre-purchasing them to have them readily available on campus.
FM&P is also reaching out to elevator consultants to do a full condition and performance assessment on the elevators on campus. A retrofitting of the button control panel on the other CCT elevator is also under consideration.
In the last three months FM&P reports that two service calls were made for CCT elevator one, and two calls for CCT elevator two.
“Some were related to the controller and some were related to door upgrades or door equipment issues, [which] are primarily related to the buttons,” said Azhari.
A complete modernization project is currently underway for elevators six and seven in the William G. Davis building.
“We’re planning to do more full modernization projects in the next five years on campus,” said Azhari. “This is going to be an ongoing maintenance project. But we’re investing a lot of money, effort, and resources to help minimize the downtime of the elevators.”