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Thu Jan 12, 2012, 12:32 PM

Does anyone here know about taking care of old office buildings?

I'm writing a Harlequin romance novel (yes, one of those), and I want my heroine to be in the business of restoring old office buildings in downtown Oakland. The buildings would date back to the 1920s or so. I especially need to know what kind of elevators such a building would have (not the original elevator, I would guess ) and how they would work or break down.

Can anyone supply that sort of information or point me to a source? TIA

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Reply Does anyone here know about taking care of old office buildings? (Original post)
wryter2000 Jan 2012 OP
Angry Dragon Jan 2012 #1
wryter2000 Jan 2012 #2
mopinko Jan 2012 #3
wryter2000 Jan 2012 #6
Warpy Jan 2012 #10
Kolesar Jan 2012 #4
wryter2000 Jan 2012 #7
Stinky The Clown Jan 2012 #5
wryter2000 Jan 2012 #8
Major Nikon Jan 2012 #9
wryter2000 Jan 2012 #12
Tesha Jan 2012 #14
NMDemDist2 Jan 2012 #11
wryter2000 Jan 2012 #13
TygrBright Sep 2013 #17
wryter2000 Sep 2013 #18
Tesha Jan 2012 #15
wryter2000 Jan 2012 #16

Response to wryter2000 (Original post)

Thu Jan 12, 2012, 12:47 PM

1. try Otis elevators maybe

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Response to Angry Dragon (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 12, 2012, 01:16 PM

2. Thanks.

I might try some unions, if I can figure out which ones.

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Response to wryter2000 (Original post)

Thu Jan 12, 2012, 01:36 PM

3. dunno if you can find it, but there was a dirty jobs about this.

it was very interesting.
the big reason they break is dirt! mixed with the grease on the gears and cables, it can be like cement.
also, otis didn't invent elevators, they invented elevator brakes. might be a fruitful angle.

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Response to mopinko (Reply #3)

Thu Jan 12, 2012, 05:23 PM

6. Thanks

I actually knew that about the brakes. That all happened in the 19th century, and my building would have been built later. Plus, I imagine the elevator would have been replaced at some point.

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Response to wryter2000 (Reply #6)

Thu Jan 12, 2012, 09:28 PM

10. Well, if your story were in Boston, the elevators would run on DC current

which is still supplied to the inner city by Boston Edison.

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Response to wryter2000 (Original post)

Thu Jan 12, 2012, 02:48 PM

4. The operator caught me watching him as he man-handled the control levers

with the strong arms of a working man

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Response to Kolesar (Reply #4)

Thu Jan 12, 2012, 05:25 PM

7. LOL

Good one.

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Response to wryter2000 (Original post)

Thu Jan 12, 2012, 03:32 PM

5. What exactly would you want to know?

One could write a book (bad pun untended) about the upkeep of old office buildings.

As to the elevators, they could be of any age. Old ones can be endlessly rebuilt, but most get replaced by modern ones for economic reasons.

Modern ones tend to break down because of small electrical issues in the control circuits. (mostly computer controlled these days). The as so many redundant safety devices on elevators that we, literally, never hear of them falling. But there was a woman who was crushed in one just the other week due to a control malfunction. Here's a link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/15/nyregion/elevator-accident-kills-a-woman-in-a-madison-avenue-building.html?_r=1

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 12, 2012, 05:28 PM

8. I only want it to get stuck between floors for a while

Because my heroine has been restoring the building, she'd understand the elevators and could comment "Must be the flange-rotor" or something.

I picture the building going back to 1920 or so but with a replacement elevator installed in the 50s or 60s. Safe but not reliable.

I'd also like to know about renovation of other things. I'm hoping she might be working on some gold leaf ornamentation herself.

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Response to wryter2000 (Reply #8)

Thu Jan 12, 2012, 08:46 PM

9. I'm somewhat familiar with elevators going back to the 50's and up

The older ones I've seen haven't been any more or less reliable than newer ones, but they do tend to get renovated every other decade or so. The things that tend to wear out are the sensors that tell when the doors are activated or the location of the floor. The wiring that goes to the car tends to have problems because it moves all the time. Wires get old and crack and connections start to fail. In typical installations you have one small room on top of the elevator shaft one floor above the highest floor the elevator services. This houses the electrical service, the motor, the gearbox, and the control circuitry. We call this the elevator penthouse or machine room.

The earliest electric elevators didn't have control circuitry that told the elevator what floor it was on or exactly where the floor was. So they required an elevator operator who had a big rheostat (I think) type control that fed an AC motor(again I'm guessing) in the penthouse. I think an elevator from the 20's would be of this design. More modern controls were added as the elevators were renovated.

A typical renovation replaces all the sensors, wiring, and control circuits. This often requires a new panel inside the car. Often the motor, gearbox, and brake are replaced or overhauled along with the steel cables. The car itself is rarely replaced on an elevator, along with the rails inside the shaft. Pulleys and/or bearings are replaced or overhauled.

Most people who have their elevator renovated get an elevator company to do it. Most states require periodic inspections of public use elevators by certified elevator repair people. I don't know if these certifications are required to work on or renovate an elevator. If our elevators require anything more than a reset, we call the elevator folks with whom we have a contract.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #9)

Fri Jan 13, 2012, 02:58 PM

12. Thank you

That's very helpful. In an older building where I worked, elevator problems often occurred because the elevator didn't know where it was, relative to a certain floor. I think I can use that.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #9)


Response to wryter2000 (Reply #8)

Thu Jan 12, 2012, 10:29 PM

11. can't it just be a power outage?? n/t

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Response to NMDemDist2 (Reply #11)

Fri Jan 13, 2012, 02:59 PM

13. Thanks. That could be an option

I wasn't thinking in those directions, but that could work, too.

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Response to wryter2000 (Reply #8)

Thu Sep 12, 2013, 01:38 AM

17. There's some good elevator stuff in Arthur Hailey's "Hotel"... n/t

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Response to TygrBright (Reply #17)

Thu Sep 12, 2013, 11:17 AM

18. Than you!

I have this thread bookmarked, obviously.

Unfortunately, the book was a close but no cigar with the publisher, so I'm not sure when or if I'll be writing it.

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Response to wryter2000 (Original post)


Response to Tesha (Reply #15)

Mon Jan 16, 2012, 10:56 AM

16. Thank you!

That's awesome.

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