Lerch Bates Inc. Building Insight

Global Leaders in Technical Consulting for the Building Industry

Do Companies Owe Anything to Society?

For-profit businesses only continue to exist if they make a profit.  Otherwise, they join the ranks of many bankrupt firms before them.  Therefore, is it reasonable to think that the entire company’s energy should be devoted to the task of making money?

But what is a company really made of?  That answer is simple-employees.  Do employees have other aspirations in their lives besides seeing the company make money?  Of course they do.  Studies have shown that employees want to feel good about the job they do and they want to make a difference.  Employees also want to feel good about the company they work for.  I think we all know someone that left a company because they did not like the direction the company was going or the manner in which the company conducted business.

So, does a company owe anything to society?  Ask different people and you get different answers.  However if you ask if a company has a responsibility to make the employees feel good about themselves and the company they work for, the majority of people would answer say yes.

Having your company participate in a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program can achieve many things.  The employees that participate come away with a feeling of satisfaction for what they did.  They feel they made a difference.  During recruiting, candidates comment on the fact that they like to see a company that is involved with these types of activities.  And guess what?  Society wins too.  Non-profit organizations benefit from the employee involvement.  The people the non-profit organizations help certainly benefit as well.  All-in-all, everyone wins.

If your company does not have a CSR program now, consider starting one.  I think your company, the employees and society will all gain from it.

For those of you with a CSR program, please share your success stories with us.

“Why do we need you?”

I belong to a professional consulting firm that works with architects in the design of new facilities. Our firm specializes in Vertical Transport, Supply Chain/Materials Management, Materials Handling, Waste Management, Service Docks, Housekeeping / Environmental Services, Facade Maintenance Equipment (BMU’s) and Central Sterile processing departments within hospitals.

“Why do we need to hire your firm?,” I am asked several times a year by different architectural firms.  “We can use manufacturers to provide us equipment layouts and designs. And our planners can duplicate the Owner’s operation in the new facility.”  Having answered this for over thirty years, I have come up with the following reasons:

  1. A consultant provides objective recommendations to the Owner’s needs, and is not subject to making recommendations geared toward a specific system, piece of equipment or operation.  An equipment manufacturer will naturally recommend a solution that includes their equipment and/or system. This recommendation may not solve the Owner’s need.
  2. Consultants understand that operations and building systems within new facilities are integrated while manufacturers may not understand how their system will impact others. For example: A manufacturer is supplying a waste and soiled linen gravity chute within a major hotel.  Waste and soiled linen will not be transported using the service elevators. A second manufacturer is designing an elevator system for this hotel and is recommending six passenger cars and four service cars.  However, the actual volume of elevator traffic is only half the anticipated need. The rest of the traffic is going down the gravity chutes. The elevator manufacturer has just over-designed their system.
  3. Consultants are dedicated to projects and can speed the design process.  Equipment suppliers are not being paid and do not have a contractual obligation (no consequences) to meet the design schedule.
  4. Consulting firms typically have a staff that includes professional members with operational expertise. These consultants gain an immediate rapport with the Owner and his managers.
  5. Consulting firms can educate the Owner’s staff on operational “best practices.” The Owner and Managers then can decide how they want to operate their new facility. (Revised operations based upon “best practices” typically translates to more efficient use of labor and lower operational costs).  In this case, a design professional cannot simply take the old design and copy it over to the new building. New operations will need to be supported by revised departmental design.
  6. Consulting firms can ensure that the form (design) meets the desired function (operations).  If the budget cannot support the desired function due to space, then the consultant can negotiate a mutually beneficial solution between the architect and then Owner.
  7. Consulting firms have a great depth of knowledge from the number and variety of projects they work on each year. This volume of projects provides them greater knowledge and the ability to problem solve faster.

The utilization of consulting firms on new building designs can save architects money in the long run.  In addition, use of consultant help ensure lower construction costs and lower operational costs to the Owner.

Now, ask an Equipment Manufacturer’s rep this same question and see what they say.

Elevator Emergency Operations

I frequently encounter misunderstandings regarding the various emergency operations that an elevator can, and in some cases, is required to perform. The most commonly confused operations are Firefighters’ Service and Emergency Power operations. Let me explain the differences.

First, note that Firefighters’ Service and Emergency Power operation are completely independent of each other, though it is not impossible for both of them to be in use in an emergency situation. In most instances when Firefighters’ Service is activated, full electrical service is available to the elevator systems. Emergency Power operation is only activated by a loss of normal electrical service to the elevator systems.

Firefighters’ Service is required on virtually all elevators.  When I first entered the elevator business I remember referring to this as Commandeering operation.  I mention this because that is exactly what Firefighters’ Service Phase II is as complete control is turned over to the operator. On Phase II operation an emergency personnel user can enter a call or cancel a call to any floor level served by the elevator.  Any call entered can be cancelled immediately by pushing the call cancel button.  This allows for redirection to another location at a moment’s notice.  The user also has complete control of the doors, which will not open unless the Open Door button is held down with continuous pressure.  If the button is released before fully open, the doors automatically close.  This way, if a fire is discovered in the elevator lobby, simply releasing pressure from the door close button will cause the doors to close.  Likewise, the doors will not close until the door close button is held continuously and the door is completely closed.  So if the firefighter needs to get back out at the floor, the doors will automatically reopen when the door close button is released if the doors are not fully closed.

But before Phase II can be activated, Firefighters’ Service Phase I must be activated.  Phase I is initiated by either, A) a key switch located in the elevator lobby or in the Fire Command Center (frequently referred to as the FCC Room), or B) by a smoke sensor in an elevator lobby, in the elevator machine room, or in the elevator shaft, if a detector is present.  Activation of Phase I operation returns all cars immediately to the primary floor, unless the detector at the primary floor is the one that activated Phase I operation.  If this detector is activated, the elevators return to the alternate floor, typically the next most logical floor for firefighters’ access.

Emergency Power operation is normally only required in a high-rise buildings, though it can be provided on any elevator, and requires that power be provided with power to serve every floor of the building for access by emergency personnel.  However, most elevator systems provide the necessary control and circuitry to allow any elevator in the building to operate on emergency power.  The elevator control system receives a signal that tells it that it is no longer operating on normal full power but that only limited amount of power is available.  The control system then determines an order in which the elevators return to the main floor and take themselves out of service.  This evacuates any passengers that might be on the cars.  When all cars have returned to the main floor, one car remains in service.

In both Firefighters’ Service and Emergency Power operations, all cars are typically returned to the main floor, but the similarities end there.  Both operations can be in affect if the necessary conditions are present.  However, in Firefighters’ Service, any or all cars can be operated on Phase II if full electrical power is available.  If Emergency Power operation is activated when the elevators are on Firefighters’ Service operation, only one car is capable of running since limited electrical power is available.

While both operations are necessary, you can see that they provide different functions for different scenarios.

To boson or not to boson?

When is it acceptable to use a bosons’ chair?

A bosons’ chair is a controlled descent device used by window washers across North America. A bosons’ chair provides the window washer with an efficient means of accessing the exterior building windows or interior building windows in the case of an atrium.  First of all let’s define what a bosons’ chair should be used for, that is, exclusively window cleaning. A bosons’ chair should not be used for building maintenance, tasks such as; caulking, glass replacement, metal refinishing, re-glazing etc… The building design should also include provisions for these types of operations as well.

While it is not our preferred method for exterior building maintenance, often times the building owner will opt to include only the necessary tiebacks that are required to support a bosons’ chair system.  In this instance, the design should be compliant with the “International Window Cleaners Association (IWCA) I-14 ANSI Standard for Window Cleaning Safety” along with OSHA 1910.66 standards and ASME A120.1 requirements. (Keep in mind, that the IWCA I-14 will only allow the use of bosons’ chairs where the building height does not exceed 390’)

Let’s go back to the issue at hand; while we have established that a bosons’ chair is acceptable for window cleaning, if the building design includes only these provisions, how will commonplace exterior building maintenance operations such as, glass replacement, re-glazing and metal refinishing be performed?

A common misconception is that temporary riggings or aerial work platforms (cherry picker) will be necessary.  These solutions are not the answer. Aerial work platforms can be expensive to rent and access to the base of the building may not be available or the unit may not be available in your area. Temporary rigging can be obtrusive to the building users and can often times be unsafe.

It is our recommendation that at a minimum, a davit and socket system be provided. This solution will allow for the use of a bosons’ chair while at the same time provide a safe and effective means for performing exterior building maintenance functions. Your building is long term asset, why cut corners when it comes to exterior building maintenance?   The first thing a potential tenant or purchaser sees is the building exterior; it is the face of your building it should be easily and safely maintained.