When planning a major construction project, it’s easy to envision how tall the building will be. What might get overlooked, though, is identifying the ways that people can effectively move through the building and get to its various floors.

PCL’s dedicated preconstruction services team doesn’t overlook critical details like this. They ensure that clients have the best elevating solutions for their projects, as well as maximize value throughout design, optimize the design of building systems, and offer building envelope solutions to meet environmental goals and certifications.

“The elevators you need to service a residential building are completely different from hospital construction or commercial construction. They’re an important element of the initial planning stage,” said Cliff Ayling, director of elevating devices. “If you do your job properly at the early stages, you’re not adding elevators or changing the design during construction.”

Planning is also essential in building renovations, he added, as there’s usually little room to expand spaces for new equipment, and that equipment may have to interface with older technology. Controls and integration are key components in retrofits. 

Ayling has been with PCL since 2017, bringing more than 40 years of expertise with elevators, escalators, moving sidewalks and dumbwaiters to the company. Over that time, elevating technology has taken huge strides forward.

“When I joined the industry, we were still driven by electromechanical controls,” Ayling said. “Today, it’s all solid state electronics; we’re even using wireless communications. Elevators have gone from a technology that really hadn’t changed much since the dawn of the 20th century to something that today is catching up with cutting-edge innovations.”

That advancement is poised to continue. Modern elevating systems include real-time monitoring sensors that reduce downtime and predict maintenance needs. Smart elevators are programmed to move passengers in the most efficient way possible throughout the day.

But passenger health has become as much of a concern as efficiency. Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020, the elevator industry has been thinking about ways to combat germs in high-touch areas — both now and once the pandemic is over. “We forget that an elevator space is a social environment,” Ayling said.

Some proposed solutions include “contactless” call buttons activated by a cellphone app, proximity sensors or even foot pedals, air purifiers in elevator cabs, and ultraviolet lights that disinfect high-contact surfaces, including escalator handrails.

Ayling said that the most practical options may be antimicrobial copper film on buttons and smartphone apps that use QR codes to define your location, enabling you to call an elevator that takes you to your floor.

“As long as you’re a recognized user, you can put your call in from your cellphone,” he said. “I see this solution becoming more and more popular.”